October 19, 2013
Lem Genovese returned from Vietnam with two burning passions—playing guitar and chasing elusive faces of the war.
“My VA counselor asked me what I hoped to accomplish writing this book,” Genovese notes in his 550-plus-page self-published memoir, Tunesmith Chronicles: A Musical History Tour. “I gave him a simple answer. ‘To get it right…’
“The US involvement during the Indochina Cultural Exchange Program has caused enough dissention, derision, confusion and damage. As a veteran I have seen both sides of that polarizing experience and like [Ulysses S] Grant, long to see the sense of hostilities subside into a mutual understanding of what is truly needed to learn valuable lessons from a bitter war to enable this nation to approach that more ‘perfect UNION.’”
Genovese’s quest put him on the road roaming the country as a hard-strumming bard of Vietnam veteran blues, as a crusty college student trying to pin down the unsettling role of Vietnam vets in American society, and as an old-timer National Guard medic trying to protect less experienced soldiers in the 1991 Gulf War.
He still harbors a white phosphorus-hot anger about a lot of things he encountered in war zones in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as stateside. And each outrageous incident or moral injury is buttressed by pages of deeply researched background information—ranging from Agent Orange to post-traumatic stress disorder, war crimes to billion-dollar wastage of military equipment.
“Frankly, after being exposed to dioxin in the Mekong Delta, the toxic cocktails in Desert Storm and 40 years of bad luck, the author relishes this opportunity to follow in the large footsteps of Army Air Corps General Billy Mitchell in one regard, sacrificing what little reputation this particular retired Army/Guard staff sergeant field medic has left … to better protect this nation’s future,” he writes in introduction to a section in which he lambastes “war profiteers” with more than 60 pages of examples.
Nearly lost amid his furious, fulminating diatribes is a story about a soldier from Des Moines, Iowa, who found salvation in making music. “After returning to Iowa from my 13 month tour of duty in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, MUSIC was my form of therapy and has kept me from going off the deep end (drugs, alcohol and suicide) many times in the ensuing years,” he states deep in this massive memoir.
As he notes more succinctly on his Yankee Medic Records website, Lem Genovese’s aim is “to be a musical bridge that promotes compassion, healing and understanding.”
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