It’s a cold, drizzly, Southern Oregon night, as I sit inside, perusing the old photo album. I flip through page after page of men clad in camouflage fatigues and green face paint, indigenous fighters, helicopters, guns, and dead bodies. Lots of dead bodies – these are the mementos of a warrior.
“You see that guy,” I look at the photograph and notice the face on the corpse is distorted, almost like broken puzzle pieces are inserted underneath the skin, “Yeah, what happened to him,” I ask?
Michael Bansmer, a retired DEA agent, looks at me with a small grin and explains how his team, operating in The Golden Triangle, received intel about a drug smuggler and immediately headed to his reported location. Upon arrival, the trafficker, and his thugs, opened fire on Bansmer’s team. “We killed every one of them,” he relates. “When I brought the informant over to identify him, he said he couldn’t tell if it was the dealer, because his skull had shattered into multiple fragments when my round hit him. I literally had to piece it together and fold the skin back over the bones, to get a positive ID,” he laughs.
His office is covered in memorabilia from throughout his career. Knives, guns, plaques, small statues, more photographs – and a Green Beret.
He sees me looking at the coveted beret, “Before my career with the DEA, I served in the Special Forces. I did a tour in Vietnam and got selected for MACV. Eventually I ended up with Project Omega.” He explains his involvement with the top-secret group and tells me stories about running reconnaissance missions in enemy regions. Only the best of the best served in MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam); their function was to conduct high risk operations covertly, inside Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Not all their missions had the official blessing of the US government.
Mike tells me about the dozens of missions he led during his tour. “I remember one op in particular where my team was deep in hostile territory. It was the middle of the night, and the jungle was pouring rain. We could hear the enemy soldiers yelling; their dogs were aggressively growling while they searched for us. They knew we were close. My guys and I crawled into a dense thicket; I raised my head slightly and could see the silhouettes of the soldiers heading towards us. I slowly put my head down, turned the selector switch on my M-16 to “fire,” and pressed the side of my face into the wet ground.
The enemy was less than a meter away; they were yelling in Vietnamese while standing almost directly above us. I slowly moved my finger over my trigger; I knew, if they found us, we’d be dead, but I figured I’d take a few of them with me. In that moment, in that split second, I thought they had discovered our position – I prepared to start firing. Suddenly, they turned away and ran towards the sound of a dog frantically barking in the distance. I laid there, absolutely motionless, in total disbelief. Once I fully grasped what had just occurred, I realized I’d pissed myself. God sent the rain that night; He saved us.”
My friend (and Mike’s daughter), Courtney, walks into the home office with a magazine in her hand. She opens the Soldier of Fortune and turns it to a page featuring a picture with three men wearing BDU uniforms, standing in the back of a C-130, parachutes donned. Over one of the men’s eyes, a black box is superimposed; apparently when the article was published, the individual was still actively running missions and needed anonymity. “That’s my dad back in 1982,” Courtney shares, proudly pointing to the anonymous man.
Our conversation continued over dinner. Mike and his family share stories about their lives. How he met Jenece when she was just 17, and how she won beauty pageants throughout the State of Washington. They were later married and started a family after moving to Thailand.
We talk about his time as a police officer, and as a detective working the narcotics division. “You know, I’ve been in car chases, shootings, fights – you name it. I’ve dealt with drug addicts, drug dealers, gang members, and every type of crook you can imagine. But, the most dangerous call you can ever get as a police officer, is a domestic violence call. These are emotionally charged; you never know how someone might respond when they find out their boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or husband, is cheating. They have a broken heart and may not care if they live or die. These calls are always the most volatile,” he shared. Years later, when I worked as a police officer, I saw for myself how true his statement was and realized how much wisdom Mike had passed on to me.
After finishing dinner, we headed to the living room. Courtney puts a video into the VHS player and turns on the TV. I watch as a massive Easter bunny rappels from a rooftop. “This is part of a home video my dad included in an audition tape for the producers of the Survivor TV show. He dressed up for an Easter-egg hunt when we were younger,” she says, smiling. “He made it to the interview phase; he did well, right up until they asked him to sing them a song. At this point, he realized it wasn’t a real “survivor” TV show, and walked out of the building,” Courtney tells me, chuckling. We continue sharing stories over the course of the next two days.
The rain eventually eased up by the end of my trip to Oregon, but the time I spent there would only be long enough to scratch the surface of Mike’s exploits during his incredible career. Over a decade later, I realized that short visit left a lasting impression on me. I found out last week that Michael K. Bansmer: husband, father, grandfather, Green Beret, police officer, agent, and WARRIOR, had passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He will be missed, but his memory will live on in the hearts and minds of his family and friends, and through the stories, and mementos, passed down about his exploits on and off the battlefield.
Mr. Bansmer was laid to rest after receiving Catholic funeral rites. His military awards include Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachute Badge, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal.
Requiescat In Pace
May 26th, 1943 – September 11th, 2023
Heath served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division. After deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Hansen was injured in a parachuting accident and left military service. He attended San Diego State University and obtained a BS in Business – Financial Services. He now resides in Europe and regularly travels throughout the world.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.