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D-Day: In honor of Walter Victor, an American hero and Braves legend

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In honor of the 76th anniversary of D-Day, here is a look into the life of Walter Victor, a decorated veteran and legendary Brave.

Today, June 6th, is an important day in American history, as it marks the 76th anniversary of D-Day. On this day in 1944, American forces invaded northern France by way of Normandy, which advanced the Allied efforts toward the eventual surrender of Germany. Among those who raided those beaches on D-Day was a young man from Dupont, Pennsylvania named Walter John Victor.

Walter Victor was a decorated war hero who received four Bronze Stars, eight Combat Stars, and one Silver Star in recognition of his bravery. In addition to his heroics on D-Day in 1944, Victor was among the US soldiers who aided in the liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany on April 29th, 1945. This camp had been in operation since 1933 and had been home to approximately 32,000 deaths, but this marked the end of those horrid conditions, though the effects would be felt for many years thereafter.

In the aftermath of World War II, Walter Victor became interested in photography, and eventually applied his new craft as team photographer for the Atlanta Braves in 1966. Victor would remain with the organization for 40 years before finally retiring in 2006 at the age of 89. Upon his retirement, twelve of Victor’s photographs were housed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

For all his exploits and war medals, Walter Victor was a caring man. I had the pleasure of meeting Victor when I was a kid in 2000, after my dad had met him in a barber shop. Walter explained that he worked for the Braves but to what extent he contributed was never clear until he took my family onto the field prior to a game that season. We walked out of the grounds crew tunnel down the right field line only to be greeted by Tom Glavine, who was warming up to start the game. At that point, it became very clear that Victor had the freedom to do as he pleased when he stepped foot inside Turner Field and we were along for the ride.

Victor allowed my family to enjoy baseball in a way that most fans never can and for that I will be forever grateful. But beyond meeting players and walking on the field pre-game, Victor became a friend who we all cared for deeply. He walked around Turner Field as if he owned it, and nobody would dare tell him any different, but he made sure that everyone with him was enjoying themselves. Even in his upper-80’s, Victor was much more concerned with the well-being of others than his own. The Braves recognized this as well, commemorating their long-time photographer with a nameplate that read “Walter Victor Camera Well” in the space next to the Braves dugout.

Walter Victor passed away in 2014, but his name will live on forever in the hearts and minds of both history enthusiasts and Braves fans. His presence at Braves games brought him into the lives of many people, and he was proud of his career, but Victor was always willing and ready to speak about the war. He sacrificed so much while serving in the military, and his bravery on this day in 1944 helped to preserve a way of life for generations around the world.

Memorial Day is a celebration of those who give their lives, but D-Day always held a special meaning for those who knew Walter Victor. Storming the beaches of Normandy claimed the lives of many young men alongside Victor, and for them we should be equally thankful, but today I felt compelled to write something in commemoration of a man who was a part of my life and a legend behind the lens for the Braves.