More than a hero: An American Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Haux
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
“I am an American Airman: wingman, leader, warrior. I will never leave an Airman behind, I will never falter, and I will not fail.”

The Airman’s Creed is recited from the very beginning of an Airman’s career. For one Airman, that creed became more than words – it became a part of who he is.

“When you think about it, what would you rather do? Walk away and let everyone die, or would you want to die trying to save somebody?” said Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who thwarted an attack on a train bound for Paris. “There is no greater honor than saving someone else’s life or giving your life for someone else.”

Stone has been given praise from around the world and is recognized as an American hero, yet is still modest about his actions.

“I am just really humbled by it all. I am very grateful of all the praise I am getting,” said Stone, who joined the Air Force to travel, help others and make a difference. “I don’t feel deserving of it, but I appreciate it all, it feels good.”

Friends since the age of 12 and 13, Stone, Anthony Sadler and Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos, never dreamed they would be thrown into that situation, however they had plenty of practice.

“We always talked about it, you know, went through scenarios and things like that,” Stone said of his lifetime friends. “(It was) kid’s stuff, zombie apocalypse, what are you going to do type scenarios, so you could say it was a dream of ours. Checked that box, and hopefully we don’t have to do it again.

“I am very proud of (my friends), especially Anthony, because he doesn’t have any military training at all and he was able to respond at the same level as me and Alek,” Stone continued. “Both Anthony and Alek saved my life. I am really proud of them and I trust them with my life and we’re going to be friends forever. We already were, but even more so now.”

After the attacker was unconscious and tied up, Stone tended to a passenger’s wounds, saving his life.

“(My training) helped me save Mark’s life for sure. I would have probably panicked if I didn’t have the training and (wouldn’t have) known what to do,” Stone said of his medical training. “That’s the thing, you go into a lot of places and the main reason people are nervous is because they’re not confident in what they are presenting, or what they are talking about or what they are doing. So having the medical training let me act the way I did, confidently, in that situation. I was afraid he was going to die. I have never seen anyone just die in front of me and I didn’t want him to die in front of his wife. That would have been pretty traumatic for her.”

Standing up, taking action and saving countless lives was only one way Stone has proven the core values of the Air Force live through him. His actions after the fact and how he has presented himself, and represented the Air Force, have proven time and again how integrity first, service before self and excellence in all you do aren’t just a bunch of words.

“It hasn’t really processed yet when people come up and tell me I’m famous and I’m a hero; I still don’t believe them,” Stone said. “My family keeps me in check. We kind of mess around sometimes, but it’s not who I am to be boastful, I don’t like to be, and I don’t like other people who are. So, I just keep myself in check and make sure I maintain a good relationship with God and get checked by God and hopefully I’ll stay the way I am.”

Being in the news and gaining the attention of the world, Stone said he has learned a lot.

“I feel like I have grown up more in these past three weeks than the 22 years of my life,” said the Sacramento, California, native. “There is definitely a lot of pressure to be or act a certain way, but I enjoy it. It’s not going to be a negative on my life; it’s going to be a positive. I am going to grow and become a stronger and smarter person.”

Stone is set to receive the Airman’s Medal, Purple Heart and is being promoted to staff sergeant in November after pinning on senior airman in October.

“I know I have to earn it. I know the rank was given to me, but I have to earn the respect of everyone else and I hope I can live up to what being a (noncommissioned officer) means,” Stone said about his spot-promotion. “I just hope I can live up to what I am supposed to be as an NCO. I will probably be mentored for a while because I’ve only been in three years. I would hate to be the guy getting their (enlisted performance report) written by me, because I don’t know anything about it right now. I gotta learn all that stuff first.”

Throughout everything that has happened since the incident, Stone’s family has been by his side every step of the way.

“They are just really, really proud. Going to New York the other day was the first time we all got to ride on a plane together as a family. It’s just been a lot of firsts for all of us,” Stone said. “It’s been awesome just having my family with me; it’s been a great support system. I wish everyone else going through anything in life -- there’s people that lose their legs, and major body parts and have all types of mental trauma and have the worst thing happen to them -- and they don’t get to have their family around. So I am just really fortunate to have them with me, and we are all just doing well.”

Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler all participated in a parade in their hometown of Sacramento and could not have been more humbled by the experience.

“That is something money can’t buy,” Stone said. “That really meant a lot. My city coming out and supporting all three of us and showing how much love they have for us and how proud we made them all, it’s just something you can’t just buy.”

Although he looks forward to settling down and getting back to work, Stone is keeping his options open for his future, but has a few words for his fellow Airmen.

“I am happy that I can make all of you guys proud. I just hope that if I needed help, everyone else would do the same and I believe they would,” Stone said. “Maybe go out and take a Brazilian jiujitsu class. It helped me.”