A while back I came across the story of Hector Oikle of Derry and knew that his life was worth remembering this Veterans Day.
Hector was born on Sept. 9, 1925, in Sackville, Nova Scotia. His dad was a veteran of the Canadian army in the First World War. In 1926, the family immigrated to Pittsfield, N.H., and after a few years moved to Derry where they moved into a house at 15 Pleasant Avenue where Mr. Oikle was employed at the Chelmsford Shoe Factory.
Around 1941, Hector quit school and joined his dad at the shoe factory; the large Oikle family could use the extra income. In a world at peace, Hector would have likely remained a factory worker, married, raised a bunch of children and lived relatively happily ever after. This safe and predictable life-pattern was not to be.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor everything changed. We became Fortress America. On Nov. 3, 1943, Hector was driven by bus to Manchester where the 18-year-old Canadian citizen was sworn into the U.S. Army. Soon, he was sent to England to wait for the Normandy invasion. As a member of a tank crew, he was a part of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. He landed on Omaha Beach four days after D-Day. In July, Hector was part of the battle for St. Lo and in August he was part of the bloody assault on the German army at St. Malo.
On Dec. 4, Hector volunteered for service with the 26th Infantry -- the Yankee Division. He was wounded by shrapnel soon after his transfer but was able to remain with his new outfit. For a while, all was quiet in Europe; many believed that the Germans were in retreat. Most thought that soon we’d be in Berlin and the war would be over. This was to be a peaceful Christmas on the Western Front.