ROSEBURG, OR – On August 21, Alex Skarlatos, a 22 year-old National Guardsman who had just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, along with fellow U.S. soldiers Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, charged a man on a French train who was carrying an AK-47, a pistol and a box cutter and subdued him before he could kill anyone.
The soldiers grabbed him by the neck and beat him over the head with his own automatic rifle until he was unconscious, the New York Times reported. It was Skarlatos who took the AK-47 away and hit the man with its muzzle.
Skarlatos’ father, Emanuel, spoke with The National Herald a few hours after his son’s heroic act, which United States, France, and throughout the world.
“Our Alex made all of us proud,” the elder Skarlatos said. “All the relatives, friends, and his fellow citizens are proud of him. All of Roseburg (the Oregon town in which the Skarlatoses live), the state of Oregon, and the nation is proud. His unparalleled heroism certainly saved many people from death.”
Skarlatos and his wife, Karen, from the moment they spoke to their son directly to learn what happened, have been constantly receiving phonecalls from local and national media. Alek contacted them around 1:30 local (Pacific) time in Oregon, about five hours after the incident. Before then, he was relaying the details to the police and the press. Alek said he expected to meet with French President Francois Hollande, and speak via telephone with President Obama. Having just completed his Afghanistan tour, Alek expected to go on vacation, including a trip to Greece. Due to this unexpected event, his itinerary has changed.
Alek will stay in the National Guard for two or three years, Skarlatos told TNH about his son. “But his dream is to become a police officer,” and Skarlatos advises his children to follow their dreams.
Born in Germany 65 years ago, Emanuel Skarlatos has two other sons besides Alek: Peter (24) and Solon (20). His wife, Karen, is a nurse; he studied fine arts and anthropology – both are now retired. The family lived mostly in California but moved to Roseburg six years ago.
Emanuel’s father (Alek’s grandfather), Socrates, was a shoemaker from Alexandroupolis. Fighting for the Greek army in WWII, he was captured by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp in East Germany.
Because he was a craftsman, the Germans put Socrates to work in a factory that made boots for the Nazi troops. Smart and capable, Socrates was promoted to head of the department that cut the hides from which to make the boots. That is where he met Else – she also worked in the factory. They married and three children: Nick, Emanuel, and George. They came to the United States almost 60 years ago and settled in California.
Like his father, Emanuel Skarlatos first became a father at 40, and had three boys, all two years apart. “Is it a coincidence,” Emanuel joked? Socrates died at age 63.
Raised in the United States and the son of a German woman, Emanuel nonetheless learned Greek, influenced by Socrates, who wanted his children to retain their Greek heritage. Emanuel visited his father’s birthplace many times. He was in Greece in 2004 for the Olympics, and was there most recently in 2007. “I wish that God grants us the opportunity to go back to Greece again – the birthplace of the Olympics, democracy, and culture.”