A national audience of veterans listen to the radio broadcast from Lake Wales


Cup of Joe Radio is produced in a home studio here, providing comfort against PTSD

A nationally broadcast and webcast radio program for veterans comes from a lake in Wales for most of the year. Local residents Mike and Irene Spotswood tape the “Cup of Joe Radio” show, often with Mike’s service dog, Truman, at their feet.

Mike, a Marine who toured Vietnam twice in 19 months, and Irene, a former nurse, say their two-hour radio show is “80% music, 20% news”. Their mission statement is “The Healing Power of Music”.

Their show is the number one rock & roll show every Friday in the block from 4-6 p.m. EST on iHeart Radio through Wreaths Across America. Cup of Joe Radio also airs on Rochester Free Radio in Rochester, New York.

“Just ask Alexa or Siri to play Rochester Free Radio every Friday at 4:00 p.m.,” Mike Spotswood said. Rochester Free Radio also streams on tunein.com, so it can be listened to anywhere, he added.

Their partnership with Wreaths Across America also allows them to reach more veterans, so the pair play a wide variety of music, from Led Zeppelin to Blake Shelton, and Stevie Nicks to Lady Gaga. They play a lot of classic rock, as they said younger generations still enjoy bands like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Mike said he wanted the show’s information and interviews to reach generations of young veterans to help them transition back to civilian life. “I try to make a path for them,” he said.

From experience, Mike has expressed a strong belief in the therapeutic power of music. “When I retired (from Army War College), like many Vietnam veterans, I started having PTSD issues,” he said. That’s why he keeps Truman, his service dog, by his side.

“Everyone seems to love the music,” Irene said. “It changes your mood, it lifts your mood, it makes you think about where you were at the time (you heard it for the first time). It helps you heal.” There are verified studies on the power of music to cure dementia to PTSD, they added.

Doug Bradley, a weekly guest on the program, wrote about music therapy and war in his book “We Gotta Get Outta This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War”. Rolling Stone magazine named the book the best music book of 2015. Bradley said his experience with it was personal – he was a combat journalist in Vietnam – but it’s also something he has researched and interviewed many people about. ‘other people.

He said when soldiers returned from Vietnam to a country that was divided over its support for the war, many veterans felt they hadn’t really “gone home.” That’s why many are reluctant to talk about their experiences there, he said. “We had these guys go out there on our behalf to kill people,” Bradley said. “One of the ways to deal with that… is to share it.”

He said that of the hundreds of people he interviewed for his book, many found they could tell their stories when asked “what’s your song?” It’s not just about singing. When someone hears a song they identify with, it also allows them to explore their experiences through music.

The Vietnam War music scene was unique, Bradley said. It was what he called a “shared soundtrack” between soldiers, as well as people back home. “(Younger generations) still know the music,” Bradley said. “People love this music, and for good reason. It’s like the best music ever.”

Many veterans Bradley has spoken to from recent wars don’t have that same sense of a shared soundtrack, as the music has become more fragmented and personal. However, younger generations still appreciate the shared Vietnam War soundtrack, he said. “We were asking them, ‘If you listened to music in a band, what did you listen to? Hendrix, the kind of stuff we used to listen to in Vietnam.”

how it started

Mike Spotswood worked in television and radio around the world, broadcasting with the Armed Forces Network in Germany from 2000 to 2003, before retiring to split his time between Tupper Lake, New York and Lake Wales, while traveling the world and recording his and Irene’s “Boomers on”. “Travel” podcast and multimedia show.

“I’ve always loved radio,” Mike said. “But the money was on TV.”

Last year, Mike was talking with his friend Jeff Moulton, a Rochester Free Radio executive with whom he worked in the Utica television market in the 1970s. Mike said he casually mentioned that he’d like to put on a show for the vets, and Moulton encouraged him to put it on, then found him a spot in the 4 p.m. “happy hour” timeslot.

Although the show’s title is the military term for coffee, the episodes begin with a spot from Irene, describing a “military cocktail” for happy hour. The two said they have always been involved in the community and veterans service, but with the coronavirus pandemic they have not been able to participate in all the ways they usually do, so a radio show at home was a “no-brainer”, said Irene.

Mike also said he hoped it would provide some connection for veterans who may be more isolated now than before.

“It’s a lot harder for them,” Mike said. “They’re already burdened with PTSD and then you put COVID on top of that and it makes it very difficult for them.”

Information post

PTSD affects many people after traumatic experiences. Once dismissed as “shell shock”, it has only been in recent decades that the true, lingering impacts of the disease have been recognized and addressed.

Although the show is music-focused, there are guests every week to talk about veteran issues and current affairs, and to help veterans navigate their complex benefits system. Veterans of Foreign Wars communications director Terrance Hayes, now appointed by the president as press secretary for the Veterans Administration, was part of the team.

Jason Murray talks about veterans organizations and the services they provide. Jerry Lamerton talks about Motown, it’s history and its stories. Mike said there was one rule: “no politics”. He said he was independent and more concerned with veterans’ issues than politics.

The show’s first episode, Feb. 14, 2020, was taped at the couple’s Florida home, with former AFN Armed Forces broadcasters. They described it as a healing mission, and they bought all their own gear and don’t profit from it. They have a soundproof studio at home, but they said they didn’t want to change the show too much.

“It may sound crazy, but we don’t want to be too polite,” Mike said. So until it gets cold, Cup of Joe Radio will be recorded right here at Mike, Irene and Truman’s in Lake Wales.


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