France Gives 3 American Heroes Highest Honor

Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP
Update: Today, President François Hollande of France awarded the Legion of Honor — the nation's highest award — to the three Americans who helped thwart a gunman aboard a high-speed train on Friday, August 21. “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” Hollande told Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone, who are childhood friends, during a ceremony in Paris.

This article was originally published on August 23, 2015.

Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone are, respectively, a college student, a member of the Oregon National Guard, and an airman in the Air Force. Sadler and Stone are both 23 years old, while Skarlatos is 22. Most importantly, they are also heroes who stopped a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris.

The three met in middle school, the New York Times reports, and decided to take a trip through Europe together — Stone is stationed in the Azores Islands, near Portugal. That they were even on that particular train to Paris was a fluke: the trio made a last minute decision to skip out on their plans to visit Amsterdam and hopped onto the train where they would end up thwarting an act of terror.

In a press conference, the three men explained the events. Stone said he woke from sleeping when he spotted a man trying to operate a jammed or broken weapon. He said Skarlatos tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Let's go." Skarlatos then tackled the man, pulling the weapon out of his hands, while Stone put him in a chokehold. "It seemed like he just kept pulling more weapons left and right," Stone explained.

The three men surrounded the terrorist and continued punching him. Next, Stone grabbed him again and choked him until he was unconscious as Skarlatos hit him in the head with the butt of a weapon. Stone's thumb was severely cut by a box cutter the terrorist was wielding.

That's a lot more than these young men bargained for when they planned a nearly monthlong European vacation. Their fellow train travelers are very thankful they made that last minute change to their itinerary.
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