A journalist from Dawson County embedded in the front lines of the Iraq War came home earlier this month after a 15-day stint following American troops in the desert.
While in Iraq, Rivers of the World Founder Ben Mathes phoned in reports to about 30 different radio stations, including K-LOVE, a national Christian radio service broadcasting to 500 different stations.
Mathes said the radio interviews “were a big part of what I was doing. I also was able to put some video on the Internet. There was a great following of folks who wanted to keep up with what these [soldiers] were doing.”
Added Mathes: “What was really neat was the number of wives and mommas who saw their kid or husband on patrol. It touched their hearts. It was amazing.”
The April 19 departure marked his second venture into the front lines of the Iraq War.
This time around, he visited a friend and co-worker serving in the 4th Platoon of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
Mathes had the chance to ride in a Stryker—which is a large, armored vehicle — last month.
“A Stryker is a huge vehicle that can move really fast,” he said. “They can zoom through the battlefield and dump off soldiers or different types of weapons. An incredible machine.”
Combat wasn’t the only thing soldiers were up to, Mathes said. “A whole lot of what they do is letting people know they’re real. They’re not just these creatures behind the sunglasses and the big helmets.”
Mathes detailed a visit to a village in the Diyala Province in Eastern Iraq.
“We did humanitarian assistance,” he said. “We went to a school and gave away school supplies. We also met with local Iraqi leadership in the village. We met the mukhtar, or mayor.”
The chief message that Mathes said he got from the troops was that “they’re OK.”
He spoke to one soldier in particular who encouraged Mathes to tell people back in the states “not to worry about us. However, if you have a spouse of a service person in your church or school, ask them what you can do to help them.”
Added Mathes, “take them shopping, wash their car, cut their grass. Do whatever you can to help the families of these brave people.”
He said the trip to Iraq was the eighth war he’s seen up close.
“Because of the work we do at Rivers of the World, we see a lot of these areas,” he said.
Mathes said the organization focuses on “everything from faith-based Christian missionary work to nation building and research. It runs a broad gamut.”
Since 1978, Mathes has traveled far and wide on behalf of health development, exploration and Christian missions.