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These Men Are The Reason We’re Proud To Be Americans!

By now you’ve heard of the events that took place on August 19th on a train in France and of the three Americans and one Briton who stopped a terror attack on a high speed train.

You already know most of the details and, if you are like me, you are feeling pretty proud of those young men, two of whom are members of our military: Airman 1st class, Spencer Stone (age 23) and Oregon Army National Guard infantryman, Spc. Alek Skarlatos (age 22).

Anthony Sadler (age 23), is the third American. He is a lifelong friend of both Spencer and Skarlatos, and is a college student from California. Alek Skarlatos was actually on personal leave after having just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and had joined his friends on this trip. The British citizen who was involved in the actions is Chris Norman (age 62), an IT consultant.

“U.S. Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone hugs his mother on Aug. 24 in Paris following a foiled attack on a French train” / via Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane/Air Force

This terrorist had not counted on the quality of character that would come to confront him on that train.

Terrorists are, by nature, cowards. They take advantage of the vulnerable, the innocent, the unarmed, and the element of surprise when they undertake efforts like the one that almost took place on that French train. This terrorist ran into something he had not planned for; active duty and experienced U.S. military men and their lifelong friend. The British citizen, Chris Norman, 62, was not going to sit passively and be a victim either. He said to himself, “OK, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go.”

Airman Stone, Spc. Skarlatos, and Sandler may be young, but they were not without experience.

More importantly, they are clearly men of real character. In the actions that they took on that train, they showed the quality of Americans that are currently serving in our Armed Forces. These were the actions of men who are shaped by the will to serve the greater good. They showed too, that their military training and experience was well ingrained in them.

When hell tried to break lose on that train, they acted, in concert, and swiftly. And they did so to save lives. With military instinct and training, they took the element of surprise away from this would-be terrorist, and shoved it back into his face. They, unlike most others on that train, saw, and immediately understood, what was happening and they reacted instinctually. It is clear that, because of their clarity of mind, their immediate and personal choice to act in the face of terror, a lot of lives were saved, including their own.

TGV Train / via Rail Europe

The three Americans and the British citizen are being heralded as heroes both here and in Europe, and rightly so. French President, Francois Hollande said of them, “They behaved as soldiers, but also as responsible men.” But, to a man, they are all very humble. There is no braggadocio in any one of them. Each points to the other as the real hero. They simply understood that they had to do something.

Stone is quoted as saying, “It seemed like he was willing to fight to the end. So were we.”

And there is the crucial difference between the attacker and those American servicemen: one was willing to fight to the end to take innocent lives, the others were willing to fight to the end to save innocent lives. That, dear readers, is a difference worthy of real contemplation at all levels of society and government today.

These three young Americans have given us all a lesson worth pondering in this event. It is a lesson in courage and selflessness in the face of evil intent. These young men are examples of the quality of character that this country can produce.


The Veterans Site wishes to add our respect and thanks to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, National Guard infantryman, Spc. Alek Skarlatos, and their friend, Anthony Sandler. Your courageous and swift action prevented what could have been a real horror for all of those on that train.

You have shown us the quality of character that it takes to sacrifice for the sake of others. We wish you all a safe home. We hope also that you will be able to go back quickly to the quiet and the anonymity of your own lives.   You have done your jobs well.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.