Obama Calls American Train ‘Heroes,’ Hails Their Courage

Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone , one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hospital of Lesquin, northern France on Aug. 22, 2015. (Photo: Philippe Huguen, AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone , one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hospital of Lesquin, northern France on Aug. 22, 2015.
(Photo: Philippe Huguen, AFP/Getty Images)

Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, the first of three Americans to rush and subdue an armed gunman on a Paris-bound train, was released from the hospital Saturday and received a call from President Obama praising his courage and heroism.

The president also phoned the other two Americans, all childhood friends of Stone, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Ore.

Stone, of Carmichael, Calif., was hospitalized with a serious wound to his hand after being slashed with a box cutter in the ordeal Friday night aboard a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris.

The suspect in the attack has been linked to jihadist groups and had traveled to Syria before moving to Belgium and France from Spain, according to news media reports.

In his call, Obama praised the three Americans’ courage and wished Stone a full and speedy recovery, according to Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary. He also expressed how proud all Americans are of their extraordinary bravery.

French President Francois Hollande expressed his gratitude for the Americans’ actions on a phone call with Obama on Saturday, and the two presidents reaffirmed their commitment to working together in the fight against global terrorism.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also praised the three, saying that the actions of the two servicemen demonstrated why “on duty and off, ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

The three Americans were riding on the train together when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass. Sadler told the AP that they saw a train employee sprint down the aisle followed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.

“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”

Throughout the brief but terrifying episode, Sadler said, “the gunman never said a word.”

British passenger Chris Norman, who also helped subdue the gunman, said he decided to act after hearing the two Americans shout to grab the attacker and he thought they could act as a “team.”

“My thought was, ‘OK, I am probably going to die anyway, so let’s go,'” he said. “I’d rather die being active trying to get him down than simply sit in the corner and die.”

Norman said he helped tie up the gunman. Stone then quickly turned to help another passenger who had been wounded in the throat, stopping his bleeding until paramedics arrived, Sadler said.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Doug Stanglin