The U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) enthusiastically welcomed a declaration from the U.S. Navy that a Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue (better known as T-ATS) vessel is going to be titled in honour of the late Solomon Atkinson, one of the first-ever U.S. Navy SEALs as well as an Alaska Native leader from the Metlakatla Indian Community on the Annette Island.
The announcement also coincides with the Metlakatla Founders Day commemorating the community’s founding in 1887.
Sen. Sullivan stated that Sol Atkinson was a legendary American and Alaskan hero who led an extraordinary life of distinction and honour.
He added that Sol was one of the country’s first-ever Navy SEALs, a brilliant SEAL training instructor, a veteran who executed three combat tours when the Vietnam War was on, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and also a trainer of some of America’s greatest astronauts.
However, one would never hear Sol boast about his accomplishments and career as he was — as the greatest people are — a humble man.
Sol personified the patriotism manifest in the Alaska Native individuals, who serve at higher rates in the military than other ethnic groups. He mentioned being unable to think of any other individual more deserving of such an incredible honour.
He also said he was looking forward to meeting the USNS Solomon Atkinson and its crew members out on the water, fueled by Sol’s spirit of “Mean Machine” as a service to the great nation.
Atkinson was enlisted in the Navy back in 1952. He was deployed to Korea and completed three combat tours in Vietnam when the war was on, earning several awards and medals, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, before retirement.
Atkinson trained 48 exceptional astronauts for underwater weightlessness simulations, including Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Jim Lovell.
Following his Navy career, Atkinson went home to Metlakatla to continue serving his community — as the mayor of Metlakatla, on the school board and the Indian Community Council, and as the founder of Annette Island’s first-ever veterans’ organization.
In 2017, Sen. Sullivan also recognized Sol in his speech on the Senate floor.
As one of the members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), Sen. Sullivan advocated for establishing a Metlakatla VA veterans cemetery, a community with a rich and storied history of military services. Atkinson rests at the Metlakatla Veterans Memorial Cemetery, dedicated in 2022 (August).
References: Anchorage Daily News, USNI News, DAN SULLIVAN
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