Solomon Atkinson Recognized as "Alaskan of the Week"
July 01, 2017
In recognizing Solomon Atkinson on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan san Atkinson has spent nearly his entire adult life serving our country with honor and dignity and now serves his community in Alaska tirelessly.
Atkinson was born in 1930 to Harris and Elizabeth Atkinson in Metlakatla, Alaska located on Annette Island on the Inside Passage, where so many Americans take cruises to see the glaciers and the whales. It is home to the only federally recognized Indian reservation in our State.
Sullivan said Atkinson could have continued to live in Metlakatla, where he was a commercial fisherman as a young man, but, like so many patriotic Alaskans, he chose to leave his home and join the military. Sol joined the U.S. Navy, and for 22 years - from 1951 to 1973 - he had by anybody's standards a remarkable patriotic military career.
In 1953, Atkinson volunteered for the Navy's legendary Underwater Demolition Team and was deployed to the Pacific, including Korea. Sullivan said, "Some history buffs will know and recall that the Underwater Demolition Team, the UDT, was the precursor to the present-day Navy SEALS - frogmen, as they liked to call themselves. In fact, Sol was on the very first Navy SEAL team created by President Kennedy in 1962, and I have a copy of the SEAL Team One plank owners certificate, commissioned on January 1, 1962, with Sol's name proudly displayed."
Atkinson became a Navy SEAL - the first Navy SEAL, literally. Sullivan said, "He became a SEAL team training instructor, training new Navy SEAL recruits. He was affectionately referred to as “the Mean Machine” by the Navy SEALs. He also had the honor of training 48 astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Jim Lovell, just to name a few, in underwater weightlessness simulations. His prized possession is a framed plaque bearing the signature of all those astronauts, all those American heroes whom he trained."
Atkinson completed three combat tours in Vietnam. By the time he retired from the military, he had earned numerous awards and medals for personal valor, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Sullivan said, "But what is truly remarkable about Sol is that after he retired from the Navy, he moved back home to Metlakatla and continued to serve his country and serve his community. He served on the Indian Community Council, on the school board, and as mayor of Metlakatla. He has also been very involved in veterans affairs and was the president of the first veterans organization on the island and was instrumental in starting that organization. He has spent years reaching out to his fellow veterans to make sure they receive the benefits, honor, and dignity they earned."
Jeff Moran, the superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Metlakatla, said this about Sol, “I could go on and on regarding the wonderful things that Sol has done for his community. We would not be here today without his leadership and knowledge [and commitment].”
Sullivan said, "I, too, can go on about Sol. Many Alaskans can go on about Sol and all the things he has done. But I also want to mention, particularly on the eve of the Fourth of July, that he is part of a long tradition in my State of Alaskan Natives who have served in the military, who have served our country even during darker times in our history when many Alaskan Natives were discriminated against and denied basic rights."
"On the eve of the Fourth of July," Sullivan said, "we celebrate America's independence but also in particular those who have fought for that independence over the last 200 years. As I mentioned, one proud element of my great State is that we have more veterans per capita than any State in the country, and Alaska Native veterans serve at higher rates in the U.S. military than any other ethnic group in the country--something I like to refer to as a special kind of patriotism because they have been doing this for decades, like Sol--even at times, as I mentioned, when the country hasn't always treated that group of patriotic Americans with the respect and dignity they deserve. Sol personifies this special patriotism.
The SEALs who served with Atkinson wrote this about him in a tribute: "Sol's story will continue to be told by the men he trained, by the officers who relied on him, by the Frogmen who all respect him. An officer, a gentleman, an athlete, a friend, Sol Atkinson is all of these, but of all of these traits, he is first a Frogman."
"We can see the pride the Navy SEALs have for Sol, a plank owner for the entire organization," said Sullivan.
In conclusion, Sullivan said, "He is a patriotic Alaskan through and through, and I thank him for all he has done for Alaska, for our veterans, and for America."
Sullivan's floor comments become a part of the Congressional Record.
Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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