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2 US vets, 1 civilian granted French citizenship for stopping 2015 terror attack on train

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right, walks with Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler (DoD/Released)
February 14, 2019

In Aug. 2015, three men from California prevented a terror attack on a train that was traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. On Jan. 31, all three were granted French citizenship as a reward.

Childhood friends Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler were aboard the train with 554 passengers when Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire with an AK-47, according to The Guardian.

Skarlatos served in the Oregon National Guard, and Stone is a former Airman 1st Class in the United States Air Force.

Sadler said, “We heard a gunshot and we heard glass breaking behind us and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle.”

The terrorist followed and Sadler said, “As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells: ‘Spencer, go!’ and Spencer runs down the aisle. Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”

“He was just telling us to give back his gun. ‘Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!” Sadler said about the terrorist. “We just carried on beating him up and immobilized him and that was it.”

Skarlatos said that the terrorist’s gun jammed and that is when they made their move.

He said, “If that guy’s weapon had been functioning properly, I don’t even want to think about how it would have gone. We just did what we had to do. You either run away or fight. We chose to fight and got lucky and didn’t die.”

“I just applaud my friends for being on point. If Alek didn’t yell ‘Go!’ and Spencer didn’t get up straight away, who knows how many people he would have shot,” Sadler said.

It was later discovered that El-Khazzani had “several weapons in his luggage, including a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and razor blades,” The Guardian said.

He was also affiliated with radical Islam, AP News reported.

During the naturalization ceremony, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, consul general of France in San Francisco, said, “Our nation will be enriched by your strength, your culture and your personal experiences. Today, France is proud to welcome you into its rich history.”

Guy Michelier, honorary consul of France in Sacramento was also present to honor the brave trio.

“We feel a certain connection with France. It’s an honor that they’re opening their arms to us like that,” said Stone during the ceremony, Task & Purpose reported.

Stone received an Airman’s Medal and Purple Heart and Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal by former President Barack Obama.

A memoir was made by Clint Eastwood in 2018 called 15:17 to Paris. Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler play themselves in the film that recounts the train attack.