The United States Coast Guard is a branch of tradition and legacy, and Fourth-Class Cadet Solomon Ashby is a living example.
A civil engineering major and football player at the Coast Guard Academy, it wasn’t until he was already applying to the Academy that Ashby learned he is the great, great grandson of Chief Boatswain’s Mate George Edward Pruden, officer-in-charge at the Pea Island Lifesaving Station during the 1920’s.
The Pea Island station was the first to have an all-black crew, and the first to be commanded by an African-American, Capt. Richard Etheridge. The success of the Pea Island Station and its crew played a major part in paving the path for equal rights and opportunities for African-Americans in the Coast Guard.
In fact, the Academy football team wear a special Station 17 uniform this season in honor of the historic station that was located on the desolate beaches of Pea Island, N.C.
Ashby didn’t know of his relation to Pruden until he had already begun the application process to the Academy. “I was motivated to join the Coast Guard because I am always one to help people.” Ashby explains. Now, nearly a century after his service, Pruden’s legacy lives on through his great, great grandson at the Coast Guard Academy.
Although he is not able to play football this season because of an injury, Ashby is proud to carry on a family tradition of military service. “It is an honor to carry on the legacy of a hard-working African American man,” says Ashby. “I know I will be able to be successful because he was.”
As a member of one of the most diverse classes in Academy history, Solomon Ashby continues to carry the torch his great, great grandfather lit at Pea Island.
Ashby’s story will be part of this year’s SportsCenter Veterans Day coverage, which will feature the Coast Guard Academy on ESPN, Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m.
The one-hour show will include footage from the classrooms and athletic fields at the Academy, as well as interviews with cadets, coaches, and the Academy Superintendent. Several on-air personalities from the sports network will be featured, as well as a message from the President of ESPN, Jim Pitaro. The special will air Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN, and will be rebroadcast on ABC Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m., Eastern time.