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“Sol, [as he was often called], did what he thought was best for his family, community, and country,” said JoAnn Atkinson, Sol’s wife. “He did what any man would do—follow his heart and do his best.”
Sol was born in 1930 in Metlakatla, Alaska, and raised by his parents in a small Tsimshian village located along Port Chester Bay on Annette Island—it remains the sole Indian Reserve in Alaska.
The small village of less than 500 people provided ample space for Sol to develop skills to hunt, fish, and live off the land. As the son of a successful fisherman, it came as no surprise that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. When Sol was older, he returned home from boarding school in the summers to work fish alongside his father.
“It was one summer when he was fishing near Seattle that he saw a recruitment poster for the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT),” said JoAnn. “He thought it looked cool and at that point decided he wanted to become a frogman [the precursor to present day SEALs].”
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