Aleksander Reed Skarlatos October 10, 1992 (age 26)
Aleksander Reed Skarlatos (About this sound pronunciation (help·info); born October 10, 1992) is an American actor and US Army National Guard soldier who, along with fellow Americans Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, a Briton and two Frenchmen, stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train travelling from Amsterdam via Brussels in August 2015. He has been awarded the United States Army Soldier's Medal from U.S. President Barack Obama, and has received France's highest decoration, the Legion of Honour, from French president François Hollande as well as the medal of Arras, France. Skarlatos competed on season 21 of ABC's Dancing with the Stars with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold, and finished in third place.
Early life and career
Skarlatos was born as Aleksander Reed Skarlatos in Castro Valley, California to Emanuel Skarlatos, a Greek immigrant who arrived in the United States as a child, and his ex-wife, Heidi Hansen. Skarlatos has a stepmother, Karen Skarlatos, and stepfather, Tom Hansen. During his childhood, he grew up in Sacramento County, California, where he met Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler while attending school in Fair Oaks, California, continuing their friendship into adulthood. All three men are described as sharing "a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community" and are Christian. Skarlatos graduated from Roseburg High School.
Skarlatos has been in the Oregon Army National Guard since 2012; as of September 2015, he holds the rank of Specialist. He was previously deployed in Afghanistan for nine months. The acting adjutant general of Oregon has referred to Skarlatos as "a true citizen soldier who displayed the courage each of us would hope to find in ourselves."
In October 2016, it was announced that Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler would make an appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire as a part of the show's special "Hometown Heroes" week which would premiere on October 31, 2016.
2015 Thalys train attack
On August 21, 2015, Skarlatos and two friends from his childhood home of Carmichael, California, were traveling together during a vacation in Europe. He was recently back from Afghanistan, and had been traveling in Germany and the Netherlands and was to travel to Greece. Skarlatos was sitting in a window seat of Thalys train 9364 from Amsterdam bound to Paris via Brussels. A 25-year-old Moroccan man, believed to be Ayoub El-Khazzani, was in train car No. 12, armed with an AKM assault rifle and equipped with 270 rounds of ammunition. Several people tried to stop the gunman, but failed to do so. Skarlatos' friend, 23-year-old Spencer Stone, attacked the gunman first and was injured while trying to subdue him. Skarlatos took action and seized the assailant's rifle, beating him in the head with the muzzle of it until he was unconscious.
After the attack, on August 22, 2015, Skarlatos and his friends received international attention for their actions in thwarting the attack. French president François Hollande awarded Skarlatos, his friends Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, as well as British businessman Chris Norman, France's highest decoration, Knights of the Legion of Honour (Chevaliers de la Légion d'honneur). Hollande said the men "faced [off] with terror" and that they "gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and therefore in hope". French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised them for their bravery, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The White House expressed gratitude for "courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker..." U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned the three Americans, thanking them for their heroic actions. General Philip M. Breedlove of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, added his voice, calling the three Americans heroes for their actions which "clearly illustrate the courage and commitment our young men and women have all the time, whether they are on duty or on leave."
Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, California, held a parade to honor Skarlatos, Sadler, Stone, and the victims of the September 11 attacks. Megyn Kelly of Fox News Channel's The Kelly File, asked Skarlatos whether he had a different appreciation of what happened when the World Trade Center collapsed. "I feel so much more connected to terrorist attacks and things like that and victims of terrorist attacks," said Skarlatos, "That easily could have been us if any one of six or seven things went a different way."
Dancing with the Stars
Skarlatos was announced as a competitor in season 21 of Dancing with the Stars. He was partnered with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold. He said that he was inspired to participate on the show by Noah Galloway, a soldier who was on the previous season of the series. Skarlatos and Arnold made it to the finals of the show and finished in third place.