U.S. Navy Names New Ship After Legendary Alaska Native Navy SEAL Sol Atkinson

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today welcomed an announcement from the U.S. Navy that a future Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue (T-ATS) ship will be named in honor of the late Solomon “Sol” Atkinson, one of the first U.S. Navy SEALs and a legendary Alaska Native leader from the Metlakatla Indian Community on Annette Island. The announcement coincides with Metlakatla Founders Day, commemorating the founding of the community in 1887.

“Sol Atkinson was a legendary Alaskan and an American hero, leading an extraordinary life of honor and distinction,” said Sen. Sullivan. “Sol was one of our country’s first Navy SEALs, a leading SEAL training instructor, a veteran with three combat tours during the Vietnam War, a recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and a trainer of America’s greatest astronauts. You would never hear Sol brag about his accomplishments and illustrious career because Sol was—as most of the greats are—a truly humble man. Sol also personified the special patriotism manifest in our Alaska Native people, who serve at higher rates in our military than any other ethnic group. I can’t think of an individual who is more deserving of this incredible honor. I look forward to seeing the USNS Solomon Atkinson and its crew out on the water, fueled by Sol’s ‘Mean Machine’ spirit in service to our great nation.”

Atkinson enlisted in the Navy in 1952. He deployed to Korea and completed three combat tours in Vietnam during the war, earning numerous awards and medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, before his retirement. Atkinson also trained 48 astronauts in underwater weightlessness simulations, including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Jim Lovell. Following his Navy career, Atkinson returned home to Metlakatla to continue to serve his community—as Metlakatla mayor, on the school board and Indian Community Council, and as founder of Annette Island’s first veterans organization.

In 2017, Sen. Sullivan recognized Sol Atkinson in a speech on the floor of the Senate.

As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), Sen. Sullivan strongly advocated for the establishment of a VA veterans cemetery in Metlakatla, a community with a long and storied history of military service. Atkinson now rests at the Metlakatla Veterans Memorial Cemetery, which was dedicated in August 2022.

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