Navy sailor will be first woman to do pre-game coin toss at Southern Heritage Classic

Navy sailor will be first woman to do pre-game coin toss at Southern Heritage Classic

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Spectators will see history being made on the field Saturday during the Southern Heritage Classic football game.

Twenty-eight years ago this month, Master Chief Valerie Pugh was a teenage mother making a plan for her family.

“I had to get serious about my goals and what I wanted to do,” Pugh said. “So I decided to join the Navy.”

This weekend she will be the first female ever to toss the coin at the start of the Southern Heritage Classic football game.

“I know the tradition here,” Pugh said. “People love the Classic.”

A lot has happened in between boot camp and Pugh’s historic day in Memphis. She’s moved close to 10 times across the country and overseas to Sicily.

She's served on the USS Yellowstone, and along the way, another woman has been by her side.

“I wanted to make my mother proud,” Pugh said. “So, I was totally focused on doing something with my life.”

Pugh’s mother, Frances Daniel, helped her move nine times and watched her young son when Pugh went to boot camp.

Now, she's in Memphis, ready to watch her daughter make history.

“It would’ve been a lot more challenging if I didn’t have a family that’s so supportive,” Pugh said.

Pugh is now based in Millington working as a recruiter.

She has many appearances this weekend from the college and career fair to the coach’s luncheon to the Navy virtual rescue experience.

Pugh is honored to participate in the ultimate appearance. She said she feels like a pioneer by doing the first coin toss.

“My first thing is I want to be an example for young ladies, young people and letting them know the sky’s the limit,” Pugh said.

“I think she deserves this,” Daniel said. “It’s like icing on the cake.”

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