Born in Framingham, Massachusetts and raised on a hog farm in nearby Milford, Jerry Genesio is a second-generation Italian-American whose grandparents immigrated from northern Italy to the United States in the early 20th century. After graduating from high school, Genesio served from 1956-62 in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of sergeant. From 1962-69, he was employed as a sheet metal mechanic and draftsman in North Carolina and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Sheet Metal Workers. And from 1970-90, Genesio worked as an account executive for Cutter Laboratories, representing the biological products company in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
In 1969 Genesio’s brother, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was killed in combat in Vietnam. After the United States withdrew all of its forces from Southeast Asia in 1975, Genesio—a self-described “hawk” in terms of his early attitudes regarding American military interventions abroad—became increasingly convinced that his brother had died in vain for an unworthy cause.
In 1984, during the Contras’ counter-revolution against the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government of Nicaragua, Genesio traveled to that country as an observer under a program administered by Maine Witness for Peace. When he returned to the U.S. in 1985, he co-founded Veterans for Peace (VFP) along with his wife (Judy Genesio), Rev. Willard Bicket, Doug Rawlings, and Ken Perkins. VFP’s first priorities were to stop the flow of American financial and military assistance to the Contra rebels, and to provide medical and humanitarian aid to the thousands of Nicaraguan children who had been harmed by the war. Genesio went on to serve a number of years as VFP’s executive director and president. Initially he ran the organization from an office in his home, and later from an office at the Government Center in Portland, Maine.
From 1984-93, Genesio attended night classes at the University of Southern Maine, earning a BA in history.
In 1992 Genesio addressed a United Nations NGO conference in New York titled “The Consequences of Conflict.” That same year, he founded the Children of War Rescue Project (CWRP), which helped provide pro bono medical/surgical care for Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Kosovan children wounded in the wars among the former Yugoslavian republics. Genesio served as CWRP’s project director until 2008.
In 1994 Genesio received a Community Activist Award from the National Lawyers Guild’s Maine chapter; a Take-A-Stand Award from the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine; and a Human Rights Award from Amnesty International’s Maine affiliate.
In 1996 Genesio left VFP amid a bitter fight between those members who believed that education was the organization’s only proper mission, and those who emphasized the importance of humanitarian relief and other activist causes.
From 1997 until his retirement in 2003, Genesio worked as a historian and special-collections assistant at the Portland (Maine) Public Library.
Genesio also spent a number of years as an area correspondent for The Bridgton News and the Lewiston Sun-Journal, both based in Maine. He wrote dozens of articles for periodicals such as Yankee, New England Outdoors, Mother Earth News, BitterSweet, and MaineLife. And he has published five books: Veterans for Peace: The First Decade (1998); Unseen Hazards That Threaten Hunters, Campers, and Hikers (2009); Portland Neck: The Hanging of Thomas Bird (2010); Stoking the Embers of War (2011); and Lamb’s Blood (2012).
In 2015 Genesio withdrew his lifetime membership from VFP, citing a lack of transparency in the organization’s finances and a lack of democracy in its administration. He also expressed “concern” regarding the fact that VFP’s executive director, Michael McPhearson, was a co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition which included, among its member groups, the racist and anti-Semitic New Black Panther Party. In addition, Genesio found it “troubling” that “while VFP Board members have been standing with those protesting the killing of African-Americans by white police officers, they have not protested or issued a statement condemning the deliberate and related murders of two police officers in New York and another in Ferguson, Missouri.” Further, he lamented that one of VFP’s national directors, Kourtney Mitchell, was on the steering committee of an organization called Deep Green Resistance, which Genesio said “appears [to] advocate attacks on the infrastructure of civilization in the interest of destroying civilization as we know it today so we can begin again.” “The VFP that exists today is not even close to being the VFP that was founded in 1985,” Genesio stated. “I don’t really know what this VFP is, what it stands for, or what it hopes to accomplish. Radical protests appear to be its raison d’etre rather than activities … which require a lot of personal sacrifice and hard work. VFP has evolved into something much different than it was when it began and I don’t wish to be a part of it any longer.”
Genesio currently lives in Scarborough, Maine, where he spends much of his time immersed in research and writing projects. He maintains two blogs which he personally created: Natural Unseen Hazards (about pathogens that “threaten those who work and play in the great outdoors”) and Lamb’s Blood (about “the U.S. blood industry and the role it played in Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution”). Genesio also created and maintains the Afghanistan-Iraq Memorial Wall, a website honoring American military personnel who died in what Genesio refers to as “the so-called War on Terror.”
Further Reading: “Jerry Genesio” (JerryGenesio.wordpress.com, Linkedin.com, About.me); “Jerry Genesio Speaks at Bates College Protest Rally” (Lewiston Daily Sun, 10-18-1986); “A Brief History of Veterans For Peace” (VeteransForPeace.org); “The Making of a Veteran For Peace” (by Woody Powell, 3-26-2015); “Why I Am Withdrawing My Lifetime Membership From Veterans for Peace” (by Jerry Genesio, 4-15-2015).