Get A Grip: Phoenix woman finds Mohave County link of solider killed in Normandy

As the wind howled and the rain beat against her, Megan Keller stood before a small white cross.

The cross was just one in a sea of markers identical but for the words carved into the creamy stone.

The cross in front of Megan read: Oscar W.

Bergman PFC 315 Engr Cmbt Bn 90 Div Arizona June 14, 1944.

On that cold and stormy day in 2000, Megan placed a small American flag on PFC Oscar Bergman's grave.

It was a simple act of respect for a stranger, but from that simple act a complicated quest has evolved.

Megan was in Normandy, France, in 2000, as an athlete, a member of a U.S.

duathalon (running and biking) team.

A resident of Phoenix, when Megan signed on for the French competition, she consulted a map and saw that she would be near the scene of the famous World War II Allied invasion at Normandy.

She decided to take a side trip to the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.

The day before her visit to the cemetery, as Megan crossed the finish line at the end of her grueling race, someone handed her small American flag.

She tucked it into her backpack.

The next day, standing in the cemetery's sea of crosses, she remembered the flag.

She bent to read the writing on the crosses, looking for a connection.

She found Oscar W.

Bergman, a fellow Arizonan.

She placed her small flag on his grave.

She was moved by her visit to this hallowed ground.

Moved by the sight of more than 9,000 American graves and by the seeing the imposing cliffs of Normandy.

The movies, she said, don't do justice to the rugged site; don't impart a real sense of the enormity of the mission the soldiers undertook in 1944.

The enormity of the mission, of course, is reflected in the number of graves.

The invasion at Normandy turned the tide of World War II but the cost was high.

Since her return from France, Megan has thought often of PFC Bergman.

She has wondered who he was, what kind of life he led, who cried for him when he died in France, who he left behind.

Megan and her husband, Charles, decided to try to find out more about Oscar W.

Bergman.

Their research began with the National Archives, where Oscar Bergman is listed under World War II casualties.

His home is recorded as Mohave County.

After his name are the letters KIA- killed in action.

With a location to work with, the Kellers contacted The National D-Day Museum, The National D-Day Memorial, The 90th Division Association, The Veterans of Foreign Wars national headquarters, Kingman VFW chapters, the Kingman American Legion chapter, all listed Mohave County residents with the last name Bergman, county government and the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

Their hours of research have yet to yield much information, but they remain resolute.

As blood spills in Iraq, the Kellers are even more determined to find a friend or relative of PFC Bergman, it is their way of honoring him and all the soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

"I think what's going on now (in Iraq) is what inspired us.

Also, we have a baby on the way.

We have this wonderful life because of people like Oscar who we will never be able to thank," Charles explained to me in a recent phone conversation from the couple's Phoenix home.

Megan is more succinct, "We just basically want to say 'Thank you.'"

If they find any friends or family, they have photos of Megan's visit and a digital video made by Charles to share.

The video documents Megan's visit to the cemetery.

The sky is gray and the graves stretch out in seemingly endless rows of white crosses.

The images roll by and then the camera stops on one cross, at first indistinguishable from the others.

But, of course, each of these crosses represents a life lived and lost in the pursuit of freedom.

The men and women buried here died as soldiers, indistinguishable as soldiers must be.

But they were also brothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, their uniqueness lost to the anonymity of war.

The short film ends with this image: a small American flag flutters at the base of small white cross.

On the camera lens raindrops, like tears, distort the silent scene.

So who was Oscar Bergman?

Records and research seem to indicate that he lived in Kingman as early as 1930.

The Kellers are on the job and the amazing library staff at the Mohave Museum is on the job.

But they need help.

Their hope is that someone, on reading about their quest, will remember Oscar Bergman or remember his family or anything about him.

If anyone has such a memory, please call me at (928) 753-6397, ext.

224 or email agripman@kingmandailyminer.com.