By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Update: A memorial for Spc. Kyle Bergeland is planned for 2:30 Sunday at Claggett Creek Park for friends and family to share photos and remembrances.
The family of Army Spc. Kyle Bergeland of Keizer was notified earlier this week he had died while stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas.
Bergeland’s mother, Corina, was still waiting on further details, but presumed it had something to do with a staph infection Kyle recently underwent surgery to treat.
“He had a scratch on his knee, but didn’t even know how it had gotten there. It had gotten so infected that they did surgery and left it as an open wound to help the healing,” Corina said in an interview Friday morning.
Kyle, a 2009 graduate of McNary High School, began a four-year tour shortly after graduating and served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan where he drove an Oshkosh M-ATV, a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle as a part of the Army’s calvary scouts.
Kyle chose the Army after hearing recruitment pitches from several branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. He opted for military service instead of college because he wasn’t sure he was ready for four more years of school, Corina said.
“Kyle never liked rules or sitting in classes, but he respected authority and tried to fight for the underdogs when he could,” she said. “He thought that if he could make it through four years of the Army, he’d be ready for college.”
During his time in Afghanistan, Kyle received an Army Achievement Medal for his part in the recovery of a Chinook helicopter, Corina said. When he returned home from overseas earlier this year, Corina and Kyle’s dad Henry flew to meet him at the homecoming and a superior officer sought them out.
“He wanted to tell us that Kyle was a solid performer and someone easy to be around, which I guess isn’t always the case,” Corina said.
There was talk of him receiving sergeant stripes, but Corina was unsure if he would have re-enlisted to take advantage of the honor.
Tending to “his” M-ATV in Afghanistan, Kyle developed a passion for mechanics and hoped to study and become either a aircraft mechanic, a pilot or a police officer.
Once, when he was home on leave in Keizer, a local police officer was in his neighborhood on an investigation and stopped to talk with Kyle while he was out working on a truck. After the chat, Kyle went inside and told his mom that the officer had said to get in touch after his tour ended to see about becoming a member of the police department.
On his most recent trip home, Kyle purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle with some of his savings from the service and the bike was a source of immense pride.
Last week, Corina and Henry sent him a video of them revving the bike to tease him about it being in Keizer while he was in Texas. When Corina didn’t hear back from him, it was her first moment of concern.
“He loved our homemade pizza and even when [Henry] sent pictures of that he would call and say, ‘Gee, thanks, Dad,’” Corina said.
According to the information she had Friday morning, Kyle was last seen on base Sunday morning and then didn’t show up for formation on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The family was notified later that day of his death.
During his time at McNary, Kyle most enjoyed pottery and sculpting classes and working as a student aide in the counseling department.
Kyle was also a member of the McNary boys bowling team. Jocee Freeman, a member of the girls bowling team, got to know him as a fellow enthusiast of the sport.
“He was a great person, a phenomenal person, warm and funny. He also had this cute little hop he did on the approach [to throw the ball],” Freeman said.
He became a fan of tattoos after graduation, with three of them that held special significance. He had a chestpiece of a Norwegian crest, a nod to his father’s heritage and family connections. He and brother Tyler both had the word “Bror,” the Norwegian word for brother, inked on them. Kyle had the calvary scout sabers added to his. The third was a snarling burger on his right arm, a tribute to his Army nickname Burgerland, a variant of Bergeland.
While he was quite proud of his time serving overseas, Kyle remained humble about the experience, Corina said.
“He didn’t want to be known as a veteran because he hadn’t seen some of the action that others had,” she said. “He was very young and hadn’t yet realized what the sacrifice meant even though we felt it at home.”
Kyle also had an affinity for zombies and rode the wave of the recent resurgence in the movie monsters.
“He had all these books about Zombie etiquette and other things,” Corina said. “I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but we all went to go see Zombieland when it came out in the theaters and had a great time the rest of the week talking about the movie. He would get this great big belly laugh about the silliest things. We were proud of him because he was a good person. The things I will miss have nothing to do with him being a soldier.”
The family was still making arrangement for services, but City View Funeral Home was handling arrangements and a burial at Restlawn Cemetery was planned. The Keizertimes will update as details become available.