Oregon’s Distinguished Service Award ceremony for Specialist Alek Skarlatos
February 17, 2016
REMARKS AS PREPARED
I want to welcome Specialist Skarlatos and family members here today. I would also like to welcome other members of our military and legislators who have joined us.
It is a privilege to bring us all together today to honor Specialist Alek Skarlatos of the Oregon National Guard.
In situations like this, where a person puts his life on the line for the sake of others, it begs the question: Does the man make the moment, or does the moment make the man?
Since the day Specialist Skarlatos and his friends, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, stopped an armed gunman on a French train, he has received France’s Knights of the Legion Honour as well as the National Guard Soldiers’ Medal.
He’s met world leaders, including the President of the United States and the President of France. But today, we get the chance to honor our home-grown hero.
I want to acknowledge that even before his famous heroics in France, Specialist Skarlatos was already one of our heroes. He served honorably in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment. His service to our state and country – in addition to his heroic actions in France – are worthy of our recognition and gratitude.
His contributions to the well-being of others extend beyond his military service. Last October, he rushed home from Los Angeles to his hometown of Roseburg after hearing about the shooting at Umpqua Community College.
It is notable that not once, but twice, Specialist Skarlatos put the safety and comfort of others ahead of his own interests – even, his own life. To me, that speaks volumes about his character and deep sense of duty.
So does the man make the moment, or the moment make the man?
Specialist Skarlatos, events prior to and since that fateful day have demonstrated the kind of man you are: Strong, smart, and kind; motivated by compassion.
And terribly, terribly brave.
When your moment came, the man you are saved the lives of countless total strangers.
My fellow Oregonian, I am indeed proud to know you. It is my great privilege to bestow upon you the Distinguished Service Medal.