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Stories of heroes


WORLD Radio - Stories of heroes

Two recommendations help to teach about wartime history


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, September 16th! Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Stories of warfare.

These kinds of stories often reveal life and human nature in powerful ways.

Today, Emily Whitten recommends two such stories–the first, a book and movie combo that gets us up close and personal with some real-life World War II heroes.

The other fictional story is better suited to families with younger kids, but it conveys many of the same values of courage and self-sacrifice.

CLIP: At 0600 hours we will begin training to go to war. This is not Dog Company. This is Easy Company. The first and finest company in this regiment…

EMILY WHITTEN, REVIEWER: That’s a clip from the 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. It’s based on the book first published 30 years ago by Stephen Ambrose. Both the book and the series cover the founding of E Company paratroopers in 1942. They also cover the unit’s role on D-Day, as well as their engagements in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. By the time the unit disbands three years after its inception, Ambrose says the soldiers have formed an uncommon bond.

AMBROSE: They found combat to be ugliness, destruction and death, and hated it. Anything was better than the blood and carnage, the grime and filth, the impossible demands made on the body. Anything except letting down their buddies.

Ambrose has been accused of plagiarism in some of his other books. I’m not aware of plagiarism in Band of Brothers, though he certainly relies heavily on source material. To his credit as an historian, he even includes unflattering material such as American soldiers looting German citizens. Speaking of unflattering material, be aware that the HBO miniseries easily earned its TV-MA rating for offensive language, drinking, and sexual content as well as graphic violence. The book contains similar content as well.


It’s also worth acknowledging, especially for teens watching for the first time—there’s a reason you don’t see black men in this story. Racial segregation was army policy back then.

These negatives don’t erase the positives, though. The men of Easy Company powerfully show Christian virtues of courage, perseverance, and most of all, sacrificial love. Major Dick Winters (played by Damian Lewis) especially models godly leadership and humility. At one point, Winters stands alone on a road while enemy fire rains down—he yells, kicks, whatever it takes to pull his men from near-certain death to victory. Another time, he defends German POWs from one of his own soldiers.

CLIP: You have one round. Johnny, how many prisoners do we have? Got 11 right now, sir. You drop a prisoner, the rest will jump you. I want all prisoners back at battalion CP alive. Yes, sir.

In the following clip from the miniseries, the real Major Winters quotes a fellow soldier’s letter to him after the war.

WINTERS: I cherish the memory of a question my grandson asked me the other day. ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? No, but I served in a company of heroes.’

It’s natural for Christian parents and grandparents to want to pass on these values, but many kids aren’t ready for such mature content yet.

That’s where my second recommendation comes in. Families with kids ages 9-12 can explore similar themes in another author’s work: Christian writer S.D. Smith’s Green Ember series and his Tales of Old Natalia. His third installment in the Tales of Old Natalia came out this March, and it’s titled Prince Lander and the Dragon War. Here’s a clip from the audiobook narrated by Eric Fritzhius.

CLIP: ‘Hold a line,’ Walters called, and the bucks tightened up, making four compact rows. Lander saw Nichols form up behind him alongside Walters, blades bare and eyes keen on the enemy. Lander spun back to the water. An enormous dragon swam in front of the others. He reached the shallow water and rose with a roar. He stepped ahead, kicking up water as he came. ‘Hold,’ Walters called. Before Lander knew what he was doing, he rushed away from the line of bucks and leapt for the dragon.…

If you’re not familiar with this series, Smith jokingly calls these “rabbits with swords” stories. Like the Redwall series, the animals act a lot like humans, talking and wearing clothes. Unlike most fantasy stories, though, Smith deeply imbues his tales with Christian morality. For instance, we see the concept of honor in how the good characters treat one another, even in how they speak. We also see what happens when rabbits reject the demands of honor and become traitors.

In the following clip from Chapter 1, the noble rabbit king—King Whitson-–is holding a counsel of military leaders.

CLIP: Whitson whispered just loud enough for Lander to hear. I have laid a trap for Grimbal. You see, son, we have a traitor among our innermost counselors. I had to confirm some suspicions.

As the story develops, we learn that old King Whitson is near the end of his life, and Prince Lander struggles to fill the king’s shoes. Old wounds lead to factions among the good rabbits, even as a final showdown with the dragon king looms. Lander knows that to have a chance, he’ll need to unite the rabbits somehow-–and wield the star sword which no one can wield.

CLIP: It’s too powerful for anyone to use and not be changed.

The book does merit a few cautions. Some kids won’t be ready for the PG-level violence, and some families won’t like elements of dark magic used by evil dragons—especially one scene in which rabbits are tempted to child sacrifice. That said, for kids who are ready for the challenge, this is a large, generous, captivating story—and one that adds value to Smith’s previous collection.

Like the Band of Brothers book and movie, Prince Lander and the Dragon King can grip our imagination and teach us to love courage, wisdom, perseverance and self-sacrifice.

This quote from the Band of Brothers’s audiobook sums up both resources nicely.

CLIP: They also found in combat the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They found selflessness. They found they could love the other guy in their foxhole more than themselves. They found that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.

I’m Emily Whitten.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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