WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 18, 2015) — On Aug. 21, three childhood friends were on a train bound for Paris when they heard a gunshot. Amidst screams and commotion, they quickly focused on a man wielding an AK-47, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
The secretary thanked Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler for their valor during a Pentagon ceremony, Sept. 17.
Carter described the chaotic scene on the train, where passengers were hiding, unsure of what to do, or running away. While that was happening, Skarlatos said, “Let’s go,” and the three sprinted toward the gunman, who had his weapon trained on them.
Stone tackled the assailant and the three worked to disarm him, the secretary said. Besides the AK-47, the attacker was also armed with an automatic pistol, 270 rounds of ammunition, a box cutter and a bottle of gasoline. “As we know, Spencer was stabbed in the effort.”
After they knocked out the gunman, they tended to other injured on board before paramedics and police arrived, Carter said.
He referred to the entire ordeal as “an amazing story, right out of a movie.”
Returning to the theme of “Let’s go,” the secretary remarked that “if this sounds familiar, that’s because it is.” He compared the phrase to the one used by a passenger on United Flight 93 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks – “Let’s roll.”
He said that some of those passengers too “stood up and fought back against the terrorists, who had aimed the plane toward Washington [D.C.]. While those heroes were lost, we will always remember and appreciate their courage and sacrifice.”
Everyone in the Department of Defense, uniformed and civilian as well as those who’ve gone on before them, have “chosen to dedicate themselves to standing between order and disorder, between the way of life we cherish and those who threaten it,” Carter said. They’ve all been willing and ready to say, “Let’s go.”
MEDALS FOR HEROISM
Carter then presented the Soldier’s Medal, Airman’s Medal and Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor to Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler respectively. He noted that those are the highest commendations for non-combat bravery. Additionally, Stone was awarded a Purple Heart Medal because he suffered multiple lacerations to the face, neck and thumb during the struggle. Carter noted that the DOD has determined that since the event was deemed an act of terrorism, the Purple Heart could be awarded.
Previously, all three were awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest recognition.
Skarlatos is with the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He recently re-enlisted, calling the Guard “fantastic.”
Stone is a medic, assigned to the 65th Air Base Group on Lajes Air Base in Portugal. Next month, Stone is transferring to Travis Air Force Base, California.
Sadler is starting school this year at Sacramento State University, “where I’m sure he’ll have the best ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ story on campus this fall,” Carter quipped.
After the ceremony, Sadler told the media that he “couldn’t think of two better people to be with in this situation.”
All three said it was their first time in the Pentagon and in Washington, D.C., and were overwhelmed with the warm welcome they received from everyone, including the president.