HomeNewsArticle Display

US Airman recognized as 'hero' in Paris

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (right), Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler pose for a photo in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (right), Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler pose for a photo in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartly,  the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. Stone’s medical background prepared him to begin treating wounded passengers while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Stone is an ambulance service technician assigned to the 65th Medical Operations Squadron stationed at Lajes Field, Azores. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. Stone’s medical background prepared him to begin treating wounded passengers while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Stone is an ambulance service technician assigned to the 65th Medical Operations Squadron stationed at Lajes Field, Azores. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartly,  the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. Stone’s medical background prepared him to begin treating wounded passengers while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Stone is an ambulance service technician assigned to the 65th Medical Operations Squadron stationed at Lajes Field, Azores. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. Stone’s medical background prepared him to begin treating wounded passengers while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Stone is an ambulance service technician assigned to the 65th Medical Operations Squadron stationed at Lajes Field, Azores. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartly,  the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone along with Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to France, and his two friends speak at a press conference in Paris Aug. 23, 2015, following a foiled attack on a French train. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

PARIS (AFNS) -- U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane D. Hartley, recognized Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone for his actions in saving countless lives during a terrorist attack aboard a train headed toward Paris Aug. 21.

“We often use the word hero, and in this case I know that word has never been more appropriate," Hartley said.

"They are truly heroes. 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."

Stone and his two friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were on vacation and headed from Amsterdam to Paris when an armed man entered their cabin.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision,” Skarlatos, an Army National Guard Soldier stationed in Oregon said. “We didn’t even have time to think about it. We just acted.”

The trio had just spent the previous three days enjoying Amsterdam on their vacation. They were excited to make it to Paris so they got up early and made their way to the train station. Their train wasn’t leaving for four hours so they killed time buying souvenirs and, according to them, eating the best ice cream they ever had. They thought their vacation was off to a great start.

Their train arrived and it was time to depart Amsterdam.

“We had first class tickets,” Stone explained, “but we just found a spot we liked somewhere else on the train. Turns out our wagon didn’t have Wi-Fi so we decided to use our first class tickets and moved to another wagon.”

After about an hour on the train they were settled in somewhere in Belgium.

“I was asleep with my headphones on and my friend, Alek, was sitting to the left of me and Anthony was sitting to my right across the aisle,” Stone said. “I wake up and I see Alek moving around saying ‘oh crap! oh crap!’”

Skarlatos motioned to the gunman who entered the cabin brandishing an AK-style assault rifle.

“I kinda turn around and see the guy,” Stone said, “and he’s got the AK, he’s trying to charge it. I just throw my headphones off and turn around in my seat, get low and kinda look around.”

At this point the gunman had passed Stone and Skarlatos. It was at that moment their lives changed.

“Alek taps me on the shoulder and says ‘go get ‘em!’ and that’s when I got up and I sprinted at him,” he said.

“It was a long sprint. It felt like slow motion.”

“I heard him charge it (the assault rifle) a few more times, and heard a ‘click.’ It still wasn't working.”

Stone explained that every time he heard a click, he feared that he would die.

“I heard the ‘click’ and thought, ‘whew! I’m still here,’” he said.

Stone finally made contact with the gunman, throwing his body into him. The two started grappling.

“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, came up and took the AK. But he just kept pulling weapons left and right. He pulled a handgun and it seemed liked he pointed it back at me and I heard it click.”

It is not apparent why the guns malfunctioned so many times, but it gave the trio time to wrestle them away from the gunman.

“I saw him making a slashing motion,” Stone explained. “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.”

At this point Stone lost his grip on the gunman.

“I let him go and by that point the shooter was in the middle and me, Alek and Anthony are just surrounding him and we just started pounding him,” he said. “I got him in another choke and I choked him out until he went unconscious and my friend kept hitting him in the face with the gun.”

The gunman was down. The trio began assessing any other threats in the area.

“My friend (pointed) out the guy who got hit in the neck,” Stone said. “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.”

At this point, Stone was pretty badly wounded. His thumb was nearly severed and he had sustained gashes that were dangerously close to major arteries. The nurses later told him that he was lucky that the cuts were not further over.

Despite his wounds he never had a second thought about helping someone else.

“I felt like I was the only person who could help him,” Stone said. “I didn't really care about my injuries at that point because I thought that guy was gonna die, so I wanted to give him a fighting chance.”

Stone said that he believes everything happens for a reason. Every moment in life leads to the next. He said that there was a reason he and his friends were on that train and that they moved to first class.

“I feel good that we were able to save those people there in that right moment,” Stone said.

Stone, 23, has been in the Air Force for nearly three years. His training as a medic prepared him for how to react in a situation like this, but his family taught him to help those who need help.

“I would say it was more so how I was raised and the Air Force just gave me the tools I needed to be the person I have always wanted to be I guess,” Stone said. “There have been a bunch of influential people in my career so far that have just helped me gain the knowledge that I have.”

When asked about his family, Stone cracked a smile.

“Oh yeah; my family is proud of me. My brother is yelling ‘My brother is an international hero!’ screaming over the phone. My mother, sister, friends, family neighbors — everyone is excited for me.”

The story has been played out in the public light over the past few days and is certainly an intense ride. Many said that it feels like a movie in the making. Jokingly, Stone said that if they ever do make this into a movie, he knows exactly who he wants to play him.

“Denzel Washington, but I don’t think that would ever happen,” Stone joked.

Despite his fairly calm demeanor only days after the attack, Stone was able to reflect on the event as a day that could have gone a lot differently.

“If it wasn't for Alek and Anthony, I’d be dead,” Stone said. “I wouldn't have been able to do it by myself. He definitely woulda' got me.”

The gunman had multiple magazines and almost 300 rounds of ammunition.

“He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end,” Stone said. “So were we.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AETCommand: BIG change to the @usairforce's special warfare recruiting & initial training pipeline aimed at ensuring enlisted recruits…
This HGU-55/P helmet is fitted with a Hybrid Optical-based Inertial Tracker and day visor at Moody Air Force Base,… https://t.co/rMzsO03MLL
BRRRRRRTT The @A10DemoTeam travels the world showcasing the unique capabilities of the Thunderbolt II. The… https://t.co/giQWIwD0rA
Congratulations to @388fw and @419fw for reaching "full warfighting capability" with the F-35A Lightning II ✈️… https://t.co/5BwOupKSU7
Easy like Sunday morning. https://t.co/7Yp9fKDHnn
Congratulations to Air Force Civil Engineer Tim Sullivan, who was named the 2020 Federal Engineer of the Year! 🎉… https://t.co/tIafy8KqKs
Did you know anxiety and depression are invisible wound conditions that can affect our Airmen? They can manifest in… https://t.co/7TJn1CICbh
Airmen practice joint close air support during exercise Cope North 20 to improve combat readiness, develop integrat… https://t.co/GLpsJAlvCx
RT @inspire_af_: The @usairforce understands the importance of innovation, and @AETCommand is continuing to move towards student-centered l…
RT @AirmanMagazine: These @usairforce U-2 pilots fly at 70,000 ft, where they provide vital reconnaissance for U.S. combatant commanders.…
Spouses, family members, & caregivers are a vital part of the #AirForce family. They take care of us & we must take… https://t.co/ayzETFm5M1
The Air Force Gunsmith Shop recently released a redesigned M4 Carbine that will fit in most ejection seats. This Ai… https://t.co/f4UPJLlPxp
RT @AETCommand: Innovating in your everyday environment doesn't always lend itself to creativity! Check out the Spark Cell space at Altus…
.@USAFCENT Airmen refuel a KC-135 with a Force system in Southwest Asia. This new capability provides more efficien… https://t.co/fA2OARRUqj
RT @ArmedwScience: Civil engineering is a key part of a deployed environment. Listen as this airman explains the civil engineering capabili…
WATCH: @SecAFOfficial joins @SecArmy and @SECNAV for a discussion with @CSIS on the state of the services, defense… https://t.co/Vfk09EMBdP
Congratulations Capt Lockridge. #AimHigh https://t.co/fcJQi1vsFO
.@ABCSharkTank, anyone? The Air Force Spark Tank announced its 2020 selectees. 6 Airmen were selected to present… https://t.co/5aoPxZ2OTF
Capt Jessica Knizel was the first of 10 Air Force Aerospace Nurse Practitioners. To meet the qualifications, Kniz… https://t.co/hu2WXp8i8z