Hero's welcome: Sacramento plans parade for trio who thwarted Paris train attack

Anthony Sadler, US airman Spencer Stone, and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos have received accolades from around the world for their heroic actions on Aug. 21.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP
US Air Force personal and their families wait for the arrival of Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, one of three Americans that tackled a heavily armed gunman on a Paris-bound train, at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., Thursday. Officer Stone, who has been undergoing medical treatment in Germany since he and his two childhood friends, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Sacramento college student Anthony Sadler, subdued the gunman on a passenger train Aug. 21.

Three young men who disarmed a suspected Islamist militant on a high-speed train in France will be honored with a parade in their hometown in California next week, according to city officials.

The last of the trio arrived back in the United States on Thursday after being treated for injuries sustained in the incident.

The three friends – Anthony Sadler; Spencer Stone, a US airman; and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman – were on holiday in Europe, in part to celebrate Mr. Skarlatos’ recent return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Since foiling the attack the trio have been showered with praise and awards on both sides of the Atlantic. The three Americans, along with Briton Chris Norman, were awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor.

Frédéric Leturque, the mayor of Arras, France, near where the attack happened, also presented medals to the four men.

The three Americans grew up in the Sacramento, Calif., area and went to middle and high school together.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced on Thursday that a parade honoring their bravery was scheduled for Sept. 11.

“Our community has been anxiously awaiting the return of our three hometown heroes – Anthony, Alek, and Spencer – so that we can celebrate and honor their incredible courage,” he said in a statement.

The three friends were on a train heading from Amsterdam to Paris when they heard gunshots in the carriage behind them, then the accused gunman, Ayoub El-Khazzani, entered their carriage.

Mr. Sadler, a senior kinesiology major at Sacramento State University, said they immediately started to rush the gunman.

“As he was cocking [the rifle] to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer go!’ and Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler told reporters. “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.”

“I came to see my friends for my first trip to Europe and we stop a terrorist,” he added. “It’s kind of crazy.”

Mr. Stone, an Airman 1st Class, arrived at Travis Air Force Base, near Sacramento, on Thursday night. He had been receiving treatment at a US Army hospital in Germany.

About 200 people had gathered to greet him, including Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, Stone’s former supervisor at Travis Air Force Base.

“We’re just very proud of him,” she said. “It’s not really a surprise to any of us what he did. He’s got a lot of integrity. He’s just an all-around great guy.”

Air Force Secretary Deborah James said Stone’s unit was nominating him for the Airmen’s medal, the Air Force’s highest medal for non-combat bravery.

Skarlatos will receive the Soldier’s Medal, the US Army’s highest non-combat medal, Army officials said last week.

Sadler was thanked for his actions by Sacramento State University president Robert S. Nelsen.

Military officials have said that, since the attack is currently classified as a non-combat event, the two servicemen are not in line for any commendations for valor. Should the French investigation into the attack officially deem it a terror-related event, however, they may be eligible to receive the Purple Heart and perhaps even the Bronze Star or Silver Star.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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