I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 30 to watch the final regular season series between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Fans from all around traveled to Turner Field to honor the career of long time Braves manager Bobby Cox.
I was fortunate enough to receive autographs from long time pitching coach Leo Mazzone, former pitcher Andy Ashby and broadcaster Chip Caray.
But the one autograph and chance meeting that stands out above the afore mentioned group is Walter Victor, a 94-year-old WWII veteran and official Braves photographer of the past 40 years.
Victor was present at the media gate at Turner Field. I didn’t think much of it and wasn’t concerned with who he was.
Then as the gate opened to fans, I noticed that he was sharing a book with a trio of Braves fans and I decided to listen in.
It was a collection of photos he had taken over the years and I then realized who he was.
One of the fans said he was trying to sell the book and that it was his last copy.
I listened as he described taking photographs of sports greats like Deion Sanders and Michael Jordan, he then told the trio he wanted $25 for the book.
The group did not have the cash on them and therefore had to pass on the opportunity.
So I moved in for the purchase.
I told Victor that I would buy his book.
He thumbed through the publication and turned to the page that features a picture of him being inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame.
He then opened a case and showed me a Medal of Honor from World War II.
“I earned this in Normandy France,” he said. “Everything I tell you is true.”
Victor served in the 9th Division infantry in WWII and was part of the troops who took Utah Beach, a scene that was recreated in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
I told him that I believed him and gave him the money for the book.
He showed me his Braves Halll of Fame card and a certificate from the French Legion of Honor.
He then handed me the book and shook my hand with a very firm grip and asked “You know why my grip is so firm,” and I replied no. He answered, “Because in the war if you didn’t grip things firmly you didn’t survive.”
He made me promise that I would read every word and look at every picture in his book ‘Brave At Heart.’
I figured that is the least I can do for a veteran.