Before most Americans were out of bed this morning, the French Legion d’Honneur medal was awarded to three heroic Americans and one courageous Briton who thwarted what was sure to be mass carnage on a fast-train from Amsterdam to Paris Friday. French Pres. Francois Hollande recognized Americans Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Army National Guard Soldier Spc. Alek Skarlatos, civilian Anthony Sadler, and Englishman Chris Norman.
By now, the world knows the media published details; the two American military men, their friend, and a 62- year-old British man took down a would-be mass murderer with their bare hands. The assailant was 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, who was on anti-terror watch lists in Europe.
The men subdued the gunman who was armed with an AK 47, multiple magazines of shells, a box cutter type knife and a handgun of unknown caliber. Stone said during the take-down the gunman kept pulling out more weaponry as they struggled. A military-style choke hold by Stone restricted the breathing capabilities of El-Khazzani while Skarlatos used the muzzle end of the suspect’s own handgun to beat him down.
Not to be left out of the fray, their friend Anthony Sadler got in a few punches for the assist as did British-born Chris Norman whose son is a member of the French Navy. Accounts vary but El-Khazzani was either beaten unconscious or choked unconscious. The end result was the same, El-Khazzani wasn’t leaving the train coach on his own. Norman said he used a necktie to “hogtie” the Moroccan.
While all four men said they were running on instinct, it should be noted that Spc. Skarlatos grabbed the assault rifle from the assailant and “swept” the other passenger cars to make sure El-Khazzani was the lone gunman. That wasn’t civilian survival instinct; that was pure high-quality American military training. A1C Stone, who also had some military medical training, not only suppressed the gunman but rendered first aid to a passenger who was injured, Stone literally poking his fingers in the man’s gushing artery.
Military service runs in the Skarlatos family. Alek’s older brother serves in an intelligence unit of the United States Navy; name and base affiliation withheld as a courtesy. Alek Skarlatos returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in late June where he served as a member of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Brigade, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. His Oregon National Guard unit completed official demobilization earlier this month.
The French National Order of the Legion of Honour was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802. The Order is the highest decoration in France.