Department of Defense honors heroes with highest recognition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Haux
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter honored Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler for their heroism during an award ceremony at the Pentagon Sep. 17.

The three men made headlines when they subdued a heavily armed gunman on a Paris-bound train Aug. 21.

“‘The world is a very dangerous place. Not because of the people who wish to do evil but because there are so few of us that try to make a difference and do anything about it,’” said Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoting Albert Einstein. “It is a privilege to share this stage with three young men who did something about evil. Today we are here to honor Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Mr. Anthony Sadler for what they did in their heroic action that day on the train bound for Paris.”

Selva expressed how difficult it is to imagine what might have happened on that train that day had the three not taken action.

“For that heroism, we are here to present the Soldier’s Medal and the Airman’s Medal, the services’ highest award for members who have distinguished themselves in non-combat heroic action, which involved risking their own lives,” Selva said. “(We also present) the Medal of Valor, a medal that was brought into being after September 11, 2001, for civilians who took the same risk.”

Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos each took a turn getting their medals pinned on by the secretary of Defense.

Carter gave the credit for having a world of opportunities and challenges to heroes like Skarlatos and Stone, adding both servicemembers and young citizens like Sadler, give us confidence in the future.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James pinned the Purple Heart to Stone’s chest for the wounds he received during the attack.

“I stand before you today as a person who owes his life to an Airman.” Selva said. “That Airman risked his life to save mine, not unlike these three men did that day on that train. I have lived my life and led my career with the abiding belief that when each of us who wear this uniform or choose to defend this nation are called, we will do the right thing. Gentlemen, thank you for acting, thank you for being people who cared enough to make a difference.”