Unit: 1st Special Forces - Delta Force
Home Town: Nevada, IA
Died On: 10/06/1993
Their names--Matthew, Jacob and Kaleb--evoke images of biblical characters, searching earnestly in some historical place for morality, equality and freedom. Surely that comparison would sit well with SFC Matthew L. Rierson, if the eldest of the trio were alive to hear it.
Jacob, 5, and Kaleb, 2\1/2\, "are very curious boys, and Matt never tired of explaining to them, or exploring with them," says Matthew Rierson's widow, Patricia of their two sons. "The nature of the Army was such that he couldn't spend a lot of time with them, but when he did, they spent a lot of time outdoors, playing and exploring father-son bonding."
She says her husband joined the Army after high school "for the adventure and experiences. He heard that he could get in the Ranger battalion, he wanted to be an elite soldier."
Matthew Rierson, 33, was a "team" man. He spent much of his high school years on the football team and wrestling squad. He was a competitive pistoleer, but got more satisfaction out of getting to know the other guys who participated.
And his wife of 9 1/2 years says he was especially proud of being a member of the Army's Special Forces Command, "but it wasn't so much about the daring missions they orchestrated, but about how well his unit worked as a team, how they planned together and were successful at carrying out their tasks."
That's why she never worried about him when he went on missions with his unit. "They were so well trained and so precise in what they did," she says. "I know that's naive, but we grew up in Iowa, our cups were always half full, not half empty. We both knew the Army could be a dangerous job, but we never dwelled on it."
But Oct. 6, the unthinkable happened. Matthew Rierson was killed in a mortar attack in Somalia. His last conversation with his wife occurred five days before he died. "His unit set up phone calls on the base and the kids went with me. We talked about how things were going back home, how we missed each other, that we loved each other."
During his 12-year Army career, Matthew Rierson received a number of awards, including the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge. The Purple Heart he was awarded after his death rests in his widow's bedroom, alongside the American flag, a unit memorial bronze eagle and all his other ribbons and awards.
"I'm extremely proud of what he did," Patricia Rierson says. "The only frustration I feel is the way the political focus changed so dramatically after the 3d and 4th of October.
"They sent our soldiers over to do a job, they made a commitment. But when they pulled out, they left a lot of things unfinished. My only concern is that they really think about how they are committing sons and fathers and husbands when they make these decisions, and they should follow it through."