FACES OF AGENT ORANGE TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Greg Koeberl Bartschenfeld 3/1/51-8/7/09 visit AOL in his memory
Two years ago on this day, Greg Koeberl Bartschenfeld succumbed to the ravenous cancer, initially tongue & laryngeal, caused by his exposure to Agent Orange. Greg enlisted in the Army right after High school, but not before meeting a woman he remained friends with til he died & fathering a child. He came home on a 3 day leave from basic to marry the mother of the son born while he was overseas. He served in Viet Nam as a Green Beret & medic & also trained other Green Berets as an instructor in Panama. He suffered greatly from PTSD on his return from Viet Nam & for years afterward. His bride divorced him, no doubt out of self preservation & he was estranged from his son for 12 years. He lived a life, post war, that he would tell me only a little of. He just said "I was a pretty bad guy. I did some very bad things. I hope I can do something good before it's too late". Somewhere along there he fathered another son & married his longtime girlfriend ,the Mom. The many years they spent together I only know a little about. I know he threw himself into parenting with a vengeance & that he was still going through the healing process of PTSD. They separated years before Greg & I met. When I met & fell in love with him, decades later, his PTSD was mostly [not all] under control & he was as fit & healthy as a man 10 or more years younger. He ran 5 miles a day and had the energy & drive of 2 normal men. It was not easy keeping up with him! He had many avocations, especially music, but had in recent years continued his education & had a thriving business as a filmmaker/videographer as well as being the producer the large television studios at De Anza College, serving not just the colleges De Anza & Foothill but most local access television in the South Bay Area of San Jose, CA. He was a familiar & beloved figure on campus, mentoring many students. Teaching & supporting his interns was his passion. He was at his happiest working with young people [the more 'at risk' like he had been the better] , making music & shooting film.
His life was abruptly changed & cut short by a cancer, at first considered to be one of the 'better cancers'. This cancer reappeared, mutated & metastasized with unusual speed. Too late, I unearthed documentation proving he had been exposed to Agent Orange everywhere he served & the connection between AO & the cancers Greg had,. The VA has a policy of not sharing with civilian doctors the unique mutations caused by Agent Orange to diseases, particularly cancers, presumptively caused by AO. They are also loathe to disclose known AO hot-spots in places labeled 'classified' like those, outside of Viet Nam where Greg trained and worked in Special Ops. Greg's civilian docs had been 'working in the dark'. Had they known he would have been followed up differently & treated much more aggressively from the start. He might not have survived but he would likely have been granted more years & considerably less suffering.
In August 2008, still fit & healthy seeming, we were shocked to be told his cancer was unsurvivable and that he had weeks to a few months to live. He set about living like everyday might be his last & I set about chronicling that. He beat the odds, living another full year. We were married in February 2009, a day after I was told, yet again, to prepare myself for his expected death within a week or two. He passed 6 moths later, the day after our monthly wedding anniversary.
That extra time did not come without a price. His PTSD returned full force to what it was like post combat..at first sporadically , then more often. Nonetheless, he continued to make film, interact with & mentor his interns & students, throw himself into promoting & documenting emerging Bay Area Musicians and enjoying every moment. We managed to make 2 [hair raising to protective me] trips to WI to be with his parents , 5 younger siblings, his oldest son & 2 grandchildren. He reunited with his younger son as well, who visited from the South.
He died at home, at his insistence, a wish fully supported by me. Death when it came was unexpectedly easy & peaceful, not at all what doctors expected.
If you are new here, perhaps heeding a request by me to visit & support in his memory, take a look around. Pass along this site & it's valuable links & advocacy with any other unsuspecting vet like Greg. MOST IMPORTANTLY, educate yourself about the under reported impact on Children & Grandchildren of guys like Greg & share that knowledge with everyone you know. The deaths and suffering of our rapidly disappearing Viet Nam vets are the tip of a much bigger iceberg. Suffering of children & young people was something Greg could not abide.