Airman who thwarted train attack nominated for medal

Airman who thwarted train attack nominated for medal
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Airman First Class Spencer Stone is being nominated for the Airman's Medal, the highest non-combat award for bravery, for thwarting an attack by a heavily armed gunman on a high-speed train in Europe.

“Last Friday, as you know, evil arrived in the form of a heavily armed gunman on a high-speed passenger train in Europe,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing on Monday.

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“A gunman who brandished an AK-47, hundreds of bullets, a Luger pistol and a box cutter. What the gunman didn't expect, however, was a confrontation with our very own Captain America,” she said of Stone, adding that was his actual nickname during Air Force technical training.

Stone, 23, along with childhood friends Alek Skarlatos, 22, an Oregon National Guard specialist, and Anthony Sadler, 23, a student at California State University, Sacramento, were vacationing in Europe last week when they encountered the gunman on a train.

The suspect, Moroccan citizen Ayoub El Khazzani, 26, had just fired upon a passenger and was attempting to use his AK-47.

Stone ran towards Khazzani, tackling him. Skarlatos, Sadler and English businessman Chris Norman, 62, rushed to assist Stone, helping to disarm and tie up Khazzani.

Stone suffered cuts to his neck and his thumb but administered first aid to a wounded passenger.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, who also briefed reporters, said the Air Force was also considering awarding Stone a Purple Heart, which is awarded to those wounded in combat.

“We are looking at the potential, if this is characterized by the law enforcement investigation in France as a terrorist-related event,” he said.

“We will look at the precedent established in the Fort Hood incident to look at whether we can award the Purple Heart as well,” Welsh said, referring to a 2009 attack at the Army base by gunman Nidal Hasan, which was determined to be inspired by al Qaeda.

On Monday morning, French President François Hollande presented the four who helped subdue the gunman with the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor.

“In a split second, Airman Stone and Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Mr. Anthony Sadler and British businessman Mr. Chris Norman leapt into action, subdued the gunman and they saved lives,” James said.

“Had it not been for this heroic quartet, I'm quite sure that today we would be sitting here discussing a bloodbath,” she added.