Air Force to award highest noncombat medal to train-attack hero
By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 24, 2015
The Air Force is awarding Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone its highest noncombat honor, the Airman’s Medal, for his heroic actions aboard a Paris-bound train, the Air Force announced Monday.
Stone, Alek Skarlatos and college friend Anthony Sadler took down a gunman wielding an AK-47 and box cutter as he began an assault on a high-speed train headed for Paris late Friday.
The trio have been hailed as heroes in France, where they were awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor, on Monday by French President Francois Hollande.
“What the gunman did not expect was a confrontation with our very own Captain America. Believe it or not, that is what Airman Stone’s friends nicknamed him during Air Force technical training,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told reporters Monday when announcing the medal.
If it had not been for Stone’s actions, James said, “I’m quite sure today we would be sitting here considering a bloodbath.”
A representative for the Oregon National Guard, where Skarlatos serves, did not return requests for comment.
According to the Air Force, the Airman’s Medal was established in 1960 and is awarded “to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly nation who, while serving in any capacity with the United States Air Force ... distinguished himself or herself by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of his or her life but not involving actual combat.”
James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Stone may be eligible for other honors, including the Purple Heart if investigators determine the attack was an act of terrorism.