France Honors Americans, Briton for Stopping Train Attack as New Hero Emerges

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They grew up together, fought off an attacker together and accepted a nation's honor together.

Three days after they pounced on and subdued a gunman Friday aboard a packed train headed to Paris, American childhood friends Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos received the Legion of Honor -- France's highest recognition.

Later Monday, the identity of a new hero was revealed.

Mark Moogalian, 51, a French-American who describes himself on his website as an author, teacher and musician, encountered the gunman before the Americans, tried to wrestle a rifle from him and was shot in the neck, his wife, Isabelle Risacher, told France's Europe 1 radio. Moogalian remains hospitalized in stable condition and will receive the Legion of Honor later.

The three Americans, who reportedly met in middle school in California, planned on spending the summer sightseeing together. It was Sadler's first trip to Europe, and National Guardsman Skarlatos was on a month-long break after serving in Afghanistan. Stone is an Air Force serviceman.

They will return to the United States celebrated for their courage and quick action, and for exemplifying teamwork and friendship.

Emanuel Skarlatos, Alek's father, told The Oregonian newspaper that he'd been working in his yard Friday when he got a call from his son.

"He said he and his friend took down a terrorist on a train heading to Paris. Just like that, like it was no big deal," Emanuel Skarlatos recalled. "I said, 'What?' "

British passenger Chris Norman, who helped tackle the gunman, also received the French award during Monday's ceremony at the Élysée Palace.

"By their courage, they saved lives," President François Hollande said. "They gave us an example of what is possible to do in these kinds of situations."

The four stopped a potential massacre Friday aboard a high-speed train that had departed the Netherlands and was bound for the French capital.

"Three Americans and one Englishman ... you risked your lives to defend an ideal, the ideal of liberty and freedom," Hollande said.

Back in the States, Everett Stone praised his brother.

"He pretty much sums up the definition of what it means to be a warrior," he told CNN affiliate KOVR-TV.

"He should not be alive at all, and he saved every single person's life on that train. ..."

Spencer Stone, who was wounded in the head, neck and almost had his thumb cut off by the gunman, still managed to help a man who had his throat cut. Stone applied pressure to the man's neck to help him avoid bleeding out, his friends said.

On Monday the military released video of Stone arriving at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to receive more medical treatment. Stone is seen shaking hands with people waiting in line to greet him.

'He never said a word'

The four men were in the same train car when gunfire erupted. Shortly afterward, a shirtless man appeared with a gun slung over his shoulder.

"He never said a word," said Sadler, a student at California State University in Sacramento. "At that time, it was either do something or die."

They charged at the gunman, and a fierce struggle ensued.

"He kept pulling more weapons left and right," said Stone, his arm in a sling from injuries suffered in the struggle. "He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end. So were we."

They punched the suspect, choked him and hit him with his own weapons. They finally restrained him before the train pulled up in Arras in northern France.

Stone tackled the attacker first. He was hospitalized and released.

"It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy," said President Barack Obama, who phoned the three Americans.

Stone is a trained medical technician, Stone's friend Airman First Class Sean Murphy told The New York Times. It was Stone's "second instinct" to do what he did, but Murphy told the newspaper he was still shocked by what happened.

Inspired to act

Norman, the Briton, said he was honored to receive the medal and ecstatic to be alive, along with all the passengers on the train.

"I am happy that no one got hurt," he said. "Spence and Alek are the two guys who we should really thank the most because they were the first ones who actually got up and did it."

When they took action, Norman jumped in as well.

"That gave me the impetus to get up and do it," he said. "They galvanized me to go."

'I'm hit, I'm hit'

Before the three American friends and Norman confronted the gunman, American-born Mark Moogalian and another passenger who is remaining anonymous fought with him.

Isabelle Risacher, Moogalian's wife, told France's Europe 1 radio her husband was quickly suspicious of the suspect because he entered the toilet with his suitcase and stayed inside a long time.

"Sometime later, the man came out and it is there (her husband) saw that he had a weapon," she said. "My husband ran to the man to remove his weapon, his Kalashnikov."

During the struggle, the suspect pulled out a Luger pistol and shot Moogalian in the neck, she told the radio station.

"I did not see the gunman because it happened too fast and I was hidden behind the seats," she said. "My husband collapsed, I saw him through the seats. My husband looked at me and he said, 'I'm hit, I'm hit.' He thought it was over and that he was dying. There was blood everywhere."

Stone helped Moogalian despite his own wound, putting pressure on Moogalian's neck to stop the bleeding.

Speeding at a Sunday press conference at the U.S. Embassy and referring to Moogalian, Stone said, "When I was talking to him on the ground, he said he was from Virginia. He seems to be doing well and will have a full recovery soon."

A biography on Moogalian's website says he was born in Durham, North Carolina, and that his family later moved to Virginia. As an adult he moved to France where he worked as a translator and English teacher for business professionals.

Witness: I was not ready to die

New York social worker Christina Coons, who was aboard the train, said she didn't think she would make it.

"The thoughts that were running through my mind were, 'I'm I going to die ... I'm not ready to die,' " she told CNN's "New Day" amid tears. "I have so much more to do with my life. I'm only 28 years old."

She said she owed her life to the passengers who tackled the gunman.

"I'm incredibly grateful to those men. ... They are fantastic human beings," she said. "Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart."

Report: Suspect says he intended to rob train

The alleged gunman, identified as Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, said he only intended to conduct a robbery, not a terror act, his attorney Sophie David told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

David said her client told her he found the firearms in a public garden next to a train station in Brussels, Belgium.

But authorities said it appears he was planning a massacre, considering the kind of firepower he had.

The suspect had an AK-47 assault weapon with nine magazines of ammunition, a Luger pistol with extra ammo and a box cutter, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

"The guy had a lot of ammo," said Skarlatos, a National Guardsman based in Oregon. "His intentions were pretty clear."

Spain, France aware of suspect

Spanish officials said the suspect's family moved to Spain from Morocco in 2007.

He was linked to investigations into radical Islamist networks, a senior European counterterrorism official said. His DNA was on file with Spanish authorities, French media reported.

According to French sources, El Khazzani was the subject of a "Fiche S," or "S notice," signaling to intelligence communities across Europe that a person merits special surveillance.

It was that notice, reportedly started because of El Khazzani's connection to radical mosques in Spain, which brought attention to his possible trip from Berlin to Istanbul in May.

It's not known if he also traveled to Syria in an attempt to join ISIS, but a senior European official says he may have been linked to a cell of French ISIS Fighters in Turkey.

The same cell is thought to have plotted a foiled attack against a church in the Paris suburbs in April, the official said. The gunman in that attack is awaiting trial after accidentally shooting himself in the foot and turning himself in to medical personnel.

El Khazzani's attorney says her client denies making a trip.

Link to ISIS fighters?

The suspect is in custody undergoing interrogation.

Another passenger, a French national whose name has not been released, also confronted the gunman and will be honored at a later date.

Napoleon Bonaparte established the Legion of Honor in 1802 to recognize exceptional leaders and unusual achievements.