ARLINGTON, Va. - An Oregon Army National Guard member has been nominated to receive the Soldiers’ Medal for actions taken to subdue an armed attacker who had opened fire while on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. The award is the Army’s highest award for acts of heroism not involving actual conflict or combat with an enemy.
Spc. Alek Skarlatos, assigned to the Oregon Army Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and two friends were traveling on the train Friday when the gunman entered their car armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a boxcutter. News reports indicate that after opening fire in an adjacent car the attacker stopped to reload when Skarlatos and his friends—Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler—tackled and restrained him with other passengers providing additional assistance.
The attacker was then taken into custody by French authorities, who, along with U.S. officials, praised Skarlatos and his friends for their actions.
"While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy," said President Barack Obama in a statement.
"They are truly heroes," said Jane D. Hartly, the U. S. ambassador to France. "When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying 'Let's go.' Those words changed the fate of many."
For Skarlatos, it was a split-second decision to act.
"It wasn’t a conscious decision," he said. "We didn’t even have time to think about it. We just acted."
Stone reached the attacker first, tackled him and began to grapple with him.
"I was feeling for the gun and couldn't find it," Stone said. "I felt it a couple times but he kept taking it away. So I just put him in a rear naked choke to protect myself and my friend, Alek (Skarlatos), came up and took the (rifle)."
Stone was injured when the attacker slashed him with a boxcutter, nearly severing Stone’s thumb and causing him to lose his grip on the attacker. Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler then were able to surround the attacker and finally subdue him, said Stone.
Once the gunman was down the trio began assessing any other threats in the area and provided medical attention to a passenger who had been injured by the attacker.
Skarlatos and his friends received the French Legion of Honor award—France’s highest award— in a ceremony in Paris Monday.
Stone has been nominated for the Airman’s Medal, the Air Force equivalent to the Soldier’s Medal.
Awards aside, others were glad somebody intervened in the attacker’s plans.
"It's fantastic that no matter who it was, someone stepped up to stop such a horrific event," said Maj. Stephen Bomar, a spokesperson with the Oregon National Guard. "We're absolutely proud that it happened to be someone from the Oregon Army National Guard."