I was organizing a closet over the weekend, and came across a well used, somewhat battered Risk game with most of the pieces missing. I considered throwing it away, but after unfolding the board and looking at the contents (and continents), I was overcome with nostalgia–for 16 years we brought this same Risk game with us on our shared beach vacations with another family, and our combined children would immediately set up the board in a bedroom closet and spend hours planning their strategies to take over the world. Rain wasn’t a problem in Florida for these five diehards; it just meant there would be a lengthy Risk tournament that day. I never understood the allure of sitting in a stuffy walk-in closet conquering countries, taking over Australia and vanquishing your brother’s troops, but remembering those fiercely competitive and lively marathons gave me an idea.
With Memorial Day just behind us and the Fourth of July a few days away, I thought the focus of this blog should be on one of our oldest (and often controversial) programs: MILITARY HISTORY.
We don’t have a lot of programming that deals with history per se, except for the occasional nonfiction or fiction book that highlights significant or specific times in history–for instance, Constance McEneny’s recent reading of WOLF HALL (which was set during the reign of Henry VIII) and before that, Scott Jefferson’s reading of Erik Larson’s IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, which took us to Hitler’s Germany. War itself is not a pleasant or easy topic; I doubt anyone celebrates war or relishes bloody battles where lives are lost, and yet the value of studying the “hows” and “whys” of war is vitally important. Each week on the Military History program, WRBH provides an hour of fascinating information about the world at war, whether it be the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, or current conflicts, such as the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. Volunteer Pat Hunley is our regular Military History reader, and for him, it’s the perfect assignment. Ever since he was a young boy, Pat has always had a great interest in the way the military works and the effects that war has had on our world; he graduated from being a child playing with toy soldiers to an adolescent sharing a passion for history with his beloved brother. Last year, when that same brother became ill, Pat would bring copies of CIVIL WAR TIMES and AMERICA’S CIVIL WAR to his bedside and read them to him, echoing the faraway time in their lives when they would share and discuss the stories in those same periodicals. After his death, Pat confided that reading to his brother cemented their already strong bond, and that there was nothing strange about the fact that the material all dealt with the great tragedy and sadness of war–for the two of them it was simply a way to be close again and recreate memories of the times they had spent discussing their mutual interest. Each week on Sunday afternoon, when Pat reads current issues of these magazines for our listeners, his enthusiasm for and deep understanding of this often difficult and disturbing subject makes the MILITARY HISTORY program an educational and thoroughly engrossing hour.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention the brilliant Michael Edwards, the military scholar and historian who has read his own published work on the program and also interviewed Rick Atkinson, author of THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT, for a special Memorial Day Military History show. Michael’s expansive knowledge, his thought-provoking interview questions, and his insight into the realm of war was truly inspiring, and we were very lucky he shared his time and expertise with us at WRBH. We hope to have him do more interviews and perhaps read more of his work on the air in the future.
You can tune into the Military History program at 2 pm on Sunday afternoons, on WRBH, 88.3 FM, Reading Fine Print. And Risk can be purchased at any place where games are sold.