Aleksander Reed Skarlatos[3] (/skɑːrˈlɑːts/; born October 10, 1992) is an American actor, writer, political candidate and former US Army National Guard soldier who, along with fellow Americans Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, a Briton, a Frenchman, and an American,[4] stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train travelling from Amsterdam via Brussels in August 2015. He was awarded the United States Army's Soldier's Medal from U.S. President Barack Obama,[5] All six, save for the French passenger who wished to remain anonymous, received France's highest decoration, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, from French president François Hollande. The Americans also were awarded the medal of the city of Arras, France.[4][6]

Aleksander Skarlatos
Alek Skarlatos.jpg
Skarlatos in 2015
Aleksander Reed Skarlatos

(1992-10-10) October 10, 1992 (age 27)
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationUmpqua Community College[2]
Home townRoseburg, Oregon, U.S.
TelevisionDancing with the Stars
Political partyRepublican
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service2012–2017
RankArmy-USA-OR-04b.svg Specialist
Unit Oregon Army National Guard
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
AwardsKnight of the Legion of Honour
Soldier's Medal

Skarlatos was invited to compete on season 21 program of ABC's Dancing with the Stars with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold, as his partner. They finished in third place.[7] Skarlatos, along with his friends, portrayed themselves in the movie The 15:17 to Paris based on their autobiography with Jeffrey E. Stern. He ran for Douglas County Commissioner in 2018, and is running for Oregon's 4th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2020 election.[8]

Early lifeEdit

Aleksander Reed Skarlatos was born in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Castro Valley, California. His father is Emanuel Skarlatos, a Greek who immigrated to the United States as a child.[9] His mother is Heidi Hansen. His step-mother is Karen Skarlatos and his step-father is Tom Hansen.[10][11] He was raised in Sacramento County, California, where he first met Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler while they attended parochial school in Fair Oaks, California. Their friendship has continued into adulthood. All three share "a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community" and identify themselves as Christians.[12] Skarlatos graduated from southwest Oregon's Roseburg High School.

2015 Thalys train attackEdit

On August 21, 2015, Skarlatos and two friends from his childhood home of Carmichael, California,[13] were traveling together on Thalys train 9364 from Amsterdam bound to Paris via Brussels.[11] during a vacation in Europe. He was recently back from serving in Afghanistan, and they had been traveling in Germany and the Netherlands.[11][14] A 25-year-old Moroccan, Ayoub El-Khazzani,[15] exited the toilet in train car No. 12, armed with an AKM assault rifle, a Luger pistol, a box knife, a jar of gasoline and was carrying magazines holding 270 rounds of ammunition for the assault rifle in a rucksack.[16] Two people, a Frenchman, "Damien A.," and 51-year-old Mark Moogalian, an American expatriate living in Paris, tried to stop the gunman. Moogalian wrested the rifle from him, but was shot with the Luger as he tried to protect his wife.[15] Skarlatos' friend, 23-year-old Spencer Stone, ran toward and attacked the gunman next and was slashed while trying to subdue him.[17] Arriving next to the struggle, Skarlatos picked up the assailant's rifle,[18] beating him in the head with its muzzle and 62-year-old Briton Chris Norman also helped subdue the gunman. Though badly cut, Stone choked him until he was unconscious.[19] The terrorist was tied up and then Stone, who had some military medical training, delivered lifesaving assistance to Moogalian by pressing down on an exposed, bleeding artery.[20][21]

International recognitionEdit

United States Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the United States Army Soldier's Medal to Skarlatos (second from the left), an army specialist; the United States Air Force Airman's Medal to Spencer Stone (third from left), an airman first class; and the United States Department of Defense Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler (fourth from left), at a ceremony in The Pentagon courtyard on September 17, 2015.

After the attack, on August 22, 2015, Skarlatos and his friends received international attention for their actions in thwarting the attack.[22] 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).[22] Hollande said the men "faced [off] with terror" and that they "gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and therefore in hope".[22] French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised them for their bravery, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron.[23]

The White House expressed gratitude for "courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker..."[24] U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned the three Americans, thanking them for their heroic actions.[25] 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."[26]

Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, California, held a parade to honor Skarlatos, Sadler, Stone, and the victims of the September 11 attacks.[27] 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."[28]



Skarlatos joined the Oregon Army National Guard in 2012, achieving the rank of Specialist. He completed a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan with the National Guard's 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2015.[9][10][29][30] The acting adjutant general of Oregon Guard referred to Skarlatos as "a true citizen soldier who displayed the courage each of us would hope to find in ourselves."[31] A month prior to the terrorist event on the high-speed train in France, Skarlatos had reenlisted for an additional two-years. He left the military service in November 2017.[32][33]


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.[34]


Eastwood ventured to cast Skarlatos and his two friends as themselves, in what was generally regarded by film critics as a major mistake. The New York Daily News film reviewer commented, the disabling of the attacker, " among the most exciting moments captured on screen in recent memory." However, he continued, "But that still leaves the vast majority of the film's 94-minute run time to fill. And most of it sure feels like padding." "It's about as interesting as watching strangers' home movies." "The three heroes may now be movie stars, but they're not yet actors." He wrote that Eastwood, "...still hasn't figured out how to take a relatively short dramatic event and build a movie around it." Referencing Skarlatos' Afghan tour, he noted the sequence, "...involves a lost backpack that is eventually recovered without any problem.[35] However, by Skarlatos' own account, the incident was quite major, narrowly avoiding serious disasters, his recounting disputing the accuracy of the film script. The temporary loss of a classified device does not appear in the film. In a Chaplinesque rendition, he admits that he clumsily nearly stepped on an unexploded mortar shell, almost fired an incendiary .50 caliber anti-tank round into a group of children, then lost his backpack that held a "GPS classified technology," whose loss might have cost him and even his superiors a loss in rank.[36] The items were fortunately returned by Afghan villagers, and his team of soldiers agreed to keep news of the gaffe from reaching command staff. Despite that brief episode of excitement, Skarlatos found his tour of duty was largely uneventful, disappointing and boring, where he "...wanted to be a soldier, but instead he was "...a housekeeper," who "...followed janitors around," and compared himself to "...a security guard. A mall cop."[36]


Skarlatos ran for Douglas County Commissioner in his home state of Oregon in the 2018 U.S. midterms,[37] but lost to businessman Tom Kress.[38] Skarlatos said on election night that his opponent's 2% lead made the race still incredibly close, continuing. "We have a lot of great people and I think we’re going to have a better response from the exterior of the county, so I’m still very optimistic." He wasn’t surprised by Kress’s lead, saying, "He’s outspending us by 2 to 1 and took his campaign really negative."[38]

In 2019, Skarlatos announced that he was running as a candidate in the 2020 elections to represent Oregon's 4th congressional district in United States House of Representatives as a Republican.[8]

Dancing with the StarsEdit

Skarlatos was announced as a competitor in season 21 of Dancing with the Stars. He was partnered with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold.[39] 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.[40] Skarlatos and Arnold made it to the finals of the show and finished in third place.

Personal lifeEdit

In September 2018, Skarlatos became an honorary naturalized French citizen, along with Stone and Sadler. A naturalization ceremony was held in Sacramento in January 2019.[41]

Awards and decorationsEdit

  Air Assault Badge
  Soldier's Medal [42]
  Oregon Distinguished Service Medal[43]

  Chevalier Legion of Honour[4]

  • Received the bravery medal of the city of Arras, France.[44]


In July 2017, it was announced that Clint Eastwood would direct the upcoming biographical film titled after Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler's memoir, starring them, along with actresses Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer. Filming began on July 11, 2017.[45] The film was released in the United States on February 9, 2018.[46] The film received a generally negative reception from critics, who were largely critical of the acting by the three leads.[47]

Year Title Role Notes
2018 The 15:17 to Paris Himself Film based on the 2015 Thalys train attack


  1. ^ Americans who thwarted train terror attack become French citizens, France 24, January 2, 2019. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
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  4. ^ a b c Miner, Collin (27 August 2015). "Alek Skarlatos: 'Good to be home with family'". KOIN6. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
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  11. ^ a b c "3 Americans praised for subduing gunman on European train". Associated Press. Newsday. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  12. ^ Sangree, Hudson. "Carmichael childhood, faith unite friends who stopped train attack". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Carmichael childhood, faith unite friends who stopped train attack". sacbee. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
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  24. ^ Ellis, Ralph; King, Jessica; Dailey, Peter; Seshadri, Archith (22 August 2015). "2 members of U.S. military stop Islamist attacker on train in Belgium". CNN. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  25. ^ Karimi, Faith (23 August 2015). "Train shooting heroes: The men who helped avert a massacre in Europe". CNN. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  26. ^ "Breedlove: U.S. Troops 'Heroes' in Train Attack". Stuttgart, Germany: United States Department of Defense (DoD). Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  27. ^ Ortiz, Gamaliel (3 September 2015). "Mayor releases details for parade honoring Sacramento heroes". KCRA. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  28. ^ "French train heroes discuss 9/11 during Sacramento parade in their honor". ABC7. Sacramento, California. September 12, 2015. Archived from the original on September 13, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  29. ^ Cameron Smith (2015). "Oregon has a community of veterans that continue to serve" (Veterans Day ed.). Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs. p. 2. Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  30. ^ Lindsay Adams-Spinner ARNG G1 STRATCOMM (12 October 2015). "Guardsman honored for subduing gunman on train in France". US Army National Guard. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  31. ^ National Guard Bureau (26 August 2015). "Guardsman to get Soldiers Medal for subduing gunman on train". US Army. Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  32. ^ Charlsy Panzino (4 February 2018). "Heroes-turned-actors: 3 stars of 'The 15:17 to Paris' talk about their roles of a lifetime". Sightline Media Group. Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  33. ^ Katie Lange (8 February 2018). "DoD Assets Set Scene for Heroes in '15:17 to Paris'". Defense Media Activity. Department of Defense. Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  34. ^ Fletcher, Ed (28 October 2016). "Millions await French train heroes". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  35. ^ 'The 15:17 to Paris' review: heroes' journey stalled by dullness, New York Daily News, Ethan Sacks, February 8, 2018. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  36. ^ a b Skarlatos, Alek; Stone, Spencer; Sadler, Anthony; Stern, Jeffrey (January 2018). The 5:17 To Paris. New York: Public Affairs. pp. 66, 103–109. ISBN 978-1-61039-819-0.
  37. ^ Cegavske, Carisa (15 May 2018). "Alek Skarlatos will run for Douglas County commissioner". Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  38. ^ a b News-Review, CARISA CEGAVSKE Senior Staff Writer The. "Tom Kress defeats Skarlatos in race for Douglas County Commissioner".
  39. ^ "Dancing with the Stars Season 21 Cast Announcement". ABC. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
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  44. ^ Meredith Worthen (8 February 2018). "Meet the Real Heroes of '15:17 to Paris'". Retrieved 18 April 2018. 
  45. ^ Kroll, Justin (11 July 2017). "Clint Eastwood Casts Real-Life Heroes in Next Film 'The 15:17 to Paris' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  46. ^ Jenkins, Aric (9 February 2018). "The True Story Behind the Movie The 15:17 to Paris". Time. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  47. ^ "The 15:17 to Paris (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 11 May 2019.

External linksEdit