By David Vergun Army News Service
WASHINGTON, September 17, 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 rifle, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today during a Pentagon ceremony honoring the three men.
The secretary thanked Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler for their valor.
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 pointed at them.
Stone tackled the assailant and all three men worked to disarm him, the defense secretary continued. 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," Carter said
After they knocked out the gunman, they tended to other injured on board the train before paramedics and police arrived, he added.
The defense secretary referred to the entire ordeal as "an amazing story, right out of a movie."
Returning to the theme of "Let's go," he said that "if this sounds familiar, that’s because it is," noting the similarity to the phrase used by a passenger on United Flight 93; "Let's roll."
Carter added that some of those passengers also "stood up and fought back against the terrorists who had aimed the plane toward Washington. While those heroes were lost, we will always remember and appreciate their courage and sacrifice."
Everyone in DoD -- uniformed personnel and civilians -- has "chosen to dedicate themselves to standing between order and disorder, between the way of life we cherish and those who threaten it," the defense secretary continued. 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. The medals are the highest commendations for non-combat bravery that the Defense Department can bestow.
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 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 at Lajes Air Base in Portugal. Next month, Stone is transferring to Travis Air Force Base in California.
Sadler started 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."
It was the first time any of the men had been in the Pentagon or to Washington, D.C., and all said they were overwhelmed with the warm welcome they received from everyone, including the president.