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Alek Skarlatos Thwarted a Terrorist Attack. But Can He Waltz?

Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos tackled a gunman on a Paris-bound train in August. Now he'll try to dance his way to the top on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

(LtoR) Off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler together with US ambassador to France Jane Hartley leave after a reception at the Elysee Palace in Paris on August 24, 2015, after having been awarded with France's top Legion d'Honneur medal by the French president in recognition of their bravery after they overpowered the train attacker. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
        (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
(LtoR) Off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler together with US ambassador to France Jane Hartley leave after a reception at the Elysee Palace in Paris on August 24, 2015, after having been awarded with France's top Legion d'Honneur medal by the French president in recognition of their bravery after they overpowered the train attacker. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos has had quite the month.

First, he thwarted a gun attack on a Paris-bound train while he was on vacation in August. Then French President Francois Hollande recognized the 22-year-old’s heroic actions by naming him a knight in the Legion d’Honneur — the lowest grade of France’s highest honor.

But on Wednesday, Alek Skarlatos’s celebrity status hit a new level when he was named to the next season of “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC, a show that pairs celebrities with professional ballroom dancers who are then ranked by judges and audience members alike.

And he did it all in a polo shirt.

Skarlatos, who went from a National Guardsman to an international hero when he tackled the heavily armed gunman on Aug. 21, also came under international scrutiny for his outfit choice the day he was honored by Hollande.

He and his two American friends, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and college student Anthony Sadler, who also confronted the gunman, each showed up to the knighting ceremony in outfits better fit for a casual Friday in an office park, wearing khakis and solid color golf shirts. Hollande was in a full suit.

Their choice was defended by a style writer for the Washington Post, who said it matched their understated heroism. Others questioned why no one thought to at least get the vacationers blazers for their entrance to knighthood.

Skarlatos and his partner, Lindsay Arnold, will dance alongside a large cast of other b-, c-, or d-list celebrities this season, including chef Paula Deen, singer Andy Grammer, and jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to horse-racing’s first Triple Crown victory since 1978. Deen is perhaps known best for making — and then apologizing for — a series of racially-insensitive comments, while Grammer is a pop sensation among tweens for his admittedly catchy song “Honey, I’m Good.”   

The show premieres Sept. 14, which gives Skarlatos plenty of time to buy the right outfit, and of course, a pair of dancing shoes, before his next celebrity debut.

Photo Credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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