Local vets to receive Legion of Honor

It's an honor 66 years overdue.

Charles Smith, Charles Sprowl and Walter Victor, veterans of the Normandy invasion, will receive the Legion of Honor on Thursday morning -- the highest honor awarded by the French government.

"They didn't forget me," Victor, a technician in the 9th Infantry Division, told the AJC. And he hasn't forgotten Normandy.

"The ocean was red with blood," he said. Victor, 92, recalled a good friend dying at his feet as the young soldiers stormed the beach.  "He got shot and was drowning, but I couldn't help him. We had to keep going. Those were our orders."

Smith, of Snellville, was a technician in the 2nd Armored Division. Sprowl, of Dalton, was a longshoreman in the 490th Port Battalion.

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"They will receive this award in recognition of their courage," according to the Consulate General of France. "In particular, it is a sign of France's true and unforgettable gratitude and appreciation for these men's personal and precious contribution to the United States' decisive role in the liberation of France during WWII."

Victor, of Dawsonville, said he's planning a very French thank you for the person who presents his medal.

"I'm going to kiss him on both cheeks," said Victor, who was the Atlanta Braves team photographer for 40 years.

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