What started as a normal vacation for three Americans has culminated with them receiving top honors from the French government for their acts of heroism on August 21 when they took down a gunman on a train headed from Amsterdam to France.
Spencer Stone, Aleksander Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler have reportedly been friends since middle school, and the true test of their teamwork came when a gunman carrying an AK-47 slung over his shoulder entered their train.
Mark Moogalin, another passenger, had tried to take down the gunman, though he was shot in the neck during the struggle.
It was then that the Americans noticed the intruder and sprung into action without hesitation.
Stone sprinted toward the gunman and tried wrestling him to the ground.
The gunman was unable to get a shot off because the weapon failed for unknown reasons, but this was just the break the heroes needed to disarm the man. He was able to brandish multiple firearms — none of which functioned properly — but it was the boxcutter that ultimately harmed Stone.
"I saw him making a slashing motion," Stone told TSgt Ryan Cane for Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS). "When I leaned over his shoulder I see he has about a six-inch box cutter blade and I look down and my thumb is hanging halfway off."
The injury caused Stone to let go of the gunman, but Skarlatos, a National Guardsman serving out of Oregon, and Sadler were able to unarm him totally.
"It wasn’t a conscious decision," Skarlatos told DVIDS. "We didn’t even have time to think about it. We just acted."
Eventually, they were able to get the gunman on the ground, ultimately rendering him unconscious in order to stop the attack. After the gunman was completely subdued and restrained, Stone also assisted with taking care of the injured.
"My friend [pointed] out the guy who got hit in the neck," Stone told DVIDS, referring to Moogalin. "I don't know how he got hit but he was spurting blood everywhere. So I yelled out 'I'm a medic I'm a medic!' and took the guy and held him down. I just stuck my finger in his neck, found what I thought was an artery and just pressed down. I held that position until authorities came."
These brave men were acting on instinct, honed by the military training Stone and Skarlatos had received. Their bravery has led to recognition in some very high places.
On August 24, French President François Hollande bestowed each of the men with the French Legion of Honour, a top designation.
Moogalian was not able to attend the ceremony to receive his honor, as he remains hospitalized from his injuries. CNN reports that he is in good spirits and thankful to be alive, and thankful for Stone's quick action that kept him alive.
All of the heroes have reunited with their families, happy the danger is over.
Following the ceremony in France, the three Americans were transported to Rammstein Air Base in Germany, where hundreds of service members and their families greeted them with waves, cheers, and plenty of love.
It's not clear what will come next, we wish Stone and Moogalin speedy recoveries, and best wishes for these four brave individuals who saved the lives of hundreds.
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[All images: U.S. Air Force/Tech Sgt. Ryan Crane]
[H/T: TSgt Ryan Crane/DVIDS]