ARLINGTON, Va. – August 27, 2015- – Spc. Aleksander R. Skarlatos, one of three American friends who subdued a heavily armed gunman on a Paris-bound train, will be awarded the Soldiers Medal – the United States Army’s highest award for acts of heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy – senior Army leaders announced today.
Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was traveling from Amsterdam to Paris when the gunman emerged from a train lavatory carrying an AK-47 rifle and a Luger pistol. After hearing the sound of gunfire, Skarlatos called to others on the train to act, then charged the gunman.
According to the U.S. Army’s official narrative, he then “forcefully wrestled the two firearms from the gunman’s possession. As the gunman fought relentlessly wielding a box cutting razor, Spc. Skarlatos seized the assailant’s own rifle to employ as a blunt weapon,” knocking the gunman unconscious then securing him “with makeshift restraints.”
“Spc. Skarlatos’ actions that day epitomize what we mean by a soldier of character – one who lives by a personal code where dedication to duty and taking care of others is sacred,” said Secretary of the Army John McHugh. “His actions, and those of his fellow serviceman and passengers, exemplify the highest standards of selfless service. We are proud to count him in our ranks.”
Skarlatos is being awarded the Soldiers Medal “for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty.” The medal’s citation reads, in part, that Skarlatos “distinguished himself in a courageous manner, voluntarily accepting risk to his own life,” and that his “brave actions prevented a potentially catastrophic loss of life.”
“On behalf of our Army, I commend Spc. Aleksander Skarlatos for his heroic actions Friday that saved hundreds of lives by awarding him the Soldier’s Medal,” said Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army. “His extraordinarily heroic effort, at the risk to his own life, truly exemplifies our Army Values. I am proud to call you a hero and a Soldier.”
The director of the Army National Guard, Army Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, shared similar thoughts.
“Spc. Skarlatos is a model citizen soldier.” said Kadavy. “His willingness to risk himself to save others represents the very best of the Army National Guard.”
Skarlatos and two other Americans, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone were cited for thwarting the attack. The three childhood friends received the Legion of Honor, France’s highest recognition. Stone is an Airman 1st Class, who has been similarly nominated for the Airman’s medal, the U.S. Air Force’s highest non-combat award.
“These men are true heroes,” said Brig. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, the acting adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard. “The Oregon National Guard is very proud of Spc. Skarlatos. His quick reaction, his courage, and his bravery undoubtedly saved many lives, for which we are thankful beyond words. He is a true citizen-Soldier who displayed the courage each of us would hope to find in ourselves.”