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Two Vietnam veterans produce 'Cup of Joe Radio' to support military veterans worldwide

By PAUL CATALA | The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla. | Published: August 3, 2020

LAKE WALES, Fla. (Tribune News Service) – Mike Spotswood and Doug Bradley know firsthand how some of their fellow veterans fare physically, emotionally and mentally after their tours.

And with the intrusion of the COVID-19 pandemic into the United States, life for some of these former military members has become even more stressful.

So as a way to help, Spotswood and Bradley took to the airwaves.

The first airing of "Cup of Joe Radio," was Feb. 14. The show is currently a mix of about 80% music and 20% interviews with veteran-related information such as how to get service dogs or get involved with groups like Fairways for Warriors, a Kissimmee-based charity that provides healing and camaraderie for combat-wounded veterans and their families through the game of golf.

Spotswood has lived in Lake Wales, Fla., since 2006 after retiring from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. He served with the Marines in Vietnam for 19 months from 1966 to 1968.

Spotswood, 73, said listener numbers are growing and they have a regular online audience from as far away as Germany and Italy. With a background in TV and radio, Spotswood used to do video blogs for the American Legion but wanted to return to radio and conceived "Cup of Joe Radio."

"My heart has always been with radio and I love music. I said, 'I'm going to go back to the radio broadcasting,' so I did," said Spotswood, the show's producer.

Bradley, also 73, is the online station's music consultant. A native of Philadelphia, he was a Vietnam combat news correspondent for the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1971. He is also the author of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War.”

Bradley noted classic pop songs of the Vietnam era remain popular, with some of today's artists using music samples from musical acts like The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown.

"That music was more profound for our war because it was the first war where music was sort of everywhere. Not out in the field, of course ... but everywhere else, helicopters, on the ground, in the rear, on the boats, we had music," he said. "The military knew that music was important to us so they gave it to us in a variety of ways."

Spotswood and Bradley said they work to keep "Cup of Joe Radio" relevant through programming and personalized detail.

For example, Spotswood heard a young Marine was killed in a training accident in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and when his body was taken to his hometown in Bangor, Maine, the funeral was accompanied by a police convoy. In his honor, Spotswood played Jason Isbell's 2007 country hit "Dress Blues."

The radio show’s newer playlists also include hits such as Toby Keith and Wille Nelson's 2002 hit "A Beer for My Horses" and Trace Adkins' "Ladies Love Country Boys" from 2007.

"That was my main concern, how do I bridge the gap to bring the younger veterans in? But it wasn't hard; the younger vets also love the '60s music, too. It's got great staying power," said Spotswood.

The reach of "Cup of Joe Radio" is important in not only providing entertainment, but also helping to give veterans a resource for outreach and help, said Terrance Hayes, Veterans of Foreign Wars' national director of communications and public affairs, Washington, D.C. He is a regular guest on "Cup of Joe Radio" and recently discussed the VFW Economic Recovery Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill to get educational programs for unemployed veterans.

Hayes, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2016 after 20 years, said he met Spotswood in March and is grateful for the air time and opportunity to guide veterans and their families. He added the music helped attract listeners to the talk segments.

"I'm trying to spread to through talk about the wonderful things the VFW does for vets, active service members and their families. The fact they play music and sprinkle news and commentary between the music keeps the audience engaged – it doesn't drag on like a typical talk radio show would," he said.

And to keep content coming, Spotswood and Bradley use their own finances for equipment and donations to WFRZ. They said it allows them to be able to stay independent of any political parties or movements.

The two broadcasters said their goal is to continue to expand the reach of "Cup of Joe Radio" and attract more listeners through relevant music and messages.

"We want to energize, support and impact. I've spent more than two decades doing vet interviews about their experiences. Some have never spoken about experiences, never felt welcomed home," said Bradley. "But music is a way for them to get there. Sure, we hit PTSD, Agent Orange and survivor guilt, but we also hit bravery, courage and coming home."

Spotswood said he virtually uploads each "Cup of Joe Radio" two-hour installment to WRFZ 106.3 FM radio in Rochester, New York. Once there, the Rochester Free Radio airs "Cup of Joe Radio" from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fridays. It also can be streamed live on www.wrfz.fm or www.tunein.com.

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