American Servicemen Hailed as Heroes; Receive French Knighthood for Stopping Train Attack

AP

"Since Friday, the entire world admires your courage, your sangfroid, your spirit of solidarity. This is what allowed you to with bare hands — your bare hands — subdue an armed man. This must be an example for all, and a source of inspiration." 

Those were the words of French President Francois Hollande Monday when he awarded the Legion of Honor — France's top award — to three Americans, two of whom were off-duty servicemen, and a Briton for subduing a gunman on a Paris-bound train with 500 passengers on Friday.

From left: President Hollande, Skarlatos, U.S. ambassador to France Jane Hartley, Stone and Sadler at Legion of Honor ceremony.  Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

United States Airman Spencer Stone and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos wrestled alleged terrorist Ayoub El-Khazzani to the ground when, according to Stone in a news conference, the gunman was trying to unjam his AK-47 assault rifle. Anthony Sadler, a college student and the servicemen's close friend, and businessman Chris Norman then assisted the men in restraining El-Khazzani. 

"One need only know that Ayoub El-Khazzani was in possession of 300 rounds of ammunition and firearms to understand what we narrowly avoided, a tragedy, a massacre," Hollande said Monday while honoring the men, reports the New York Times. 

Source: Mic/Getty Images

Skarlatos, 22, Sadler and Stone, both 23, were in the midst of a trans-European tour, reports Refinery 29. They were actually not originally scheduled to be on the train and only ended up on it after a last minute decision to not spend the night in the train's port of origin, Amsterdam.

Cellphone video footage appears to show El-Khazzani hogtied and on the ground after being confronted by the four men.

According to El-Khazzani's former lawyer, the young man is "dumbfounded" at the accusations and alleges he simply found the gun in a local park, reports the Independent.

However, given the amount of ammunition El-Khazzani was carrying — a handgun, an assault rifle and multiple knives — many find that implausible. 

"Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration," Hollande told the four men on Monday. "Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that."