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Judges laud guardsman train hero's 'Dancing With the Stars' debut

During the taped intro to his "Dancing with the Stars" debut last night, an Oregon National Guardsman acknowledged he was unknown to the world less than a month ago.

Carrie Ann Anaba, the first judge to comment, was pleasantly surprised.

Skarlatos wasn't the only dancer to receive rave reviews; one site put him above the median but in the middle third. But his opposition –12 other celebrity dancers including late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi Irwin, former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Paula Deen and Gary Busey — is much less threatening than what he faced not four weeks ago in France.

'Representing Spencer and Anthony'

Skarlatos will receive the Soldier's Medal — the Army's highest noncombat award — for helping subdue an armed attacker who opened fire on a train between Amsterdam and Paris on Aug. 21. Skarlatos was on vacation through Europe with friends Anthony Sadler and Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone when the three of them stop 26-year-old Ayoub El-Khazzani, who had opened fire on a train while carrying an AK-47 (which ultimately jammed), a handgun and a box-cutter.

Skarlatos' taped intro include a shout-out to his friends who helped him save lives that day.

"I feel like I am representing Spencer and Anthony, I just really hope I do them proud," Skarlatos said.

DANCING WITH THE STARS - Rehearsals - The celebrity cast of
DANCING WITH THE STARS - Rehearsals - The celebrity cast of "Dancing with the Stars" is lacing up their ballroom shoes and getting ready for their first dance on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Matt Petit) ALEK SKARLATOS

Alek Skarlatos

Photo Credit: Matt Petit/ABC

But if the judges' reactions are any indication, they should be proud, and maybe even a little surprised given Skarlatos' stated inexperience. Even the lone judge with the slightest criticism was effusive with praise.

Highlights and segments that did not air last night will be shown tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on ABC. The first celebrity dancer will be eliminated next Monday, the second on Tuesday.

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