The US Navy has bestowed its highest non-combat accolade, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, upon sailor Thomas James for his bravery during the 2022 Club Q mass shooting.

On the night of 19 November 2022, the Club Q venue in Colorado Springs, a renowned LGBTQ+ hotspot, witnessed a harrowing attack that resulted in five fatalities and 17 injured. James was among the courageous individuals who swiftly took action against the assailant, Anderson Lee Aldrich. During the confrontation, James sustained injuries from a gunshot to his abdomen and burns on his hands while clutching the rifle’s barrel to restrain Aldrich.

The Navy highlighted James’s bravery, recognising him an “unassuming hero” who acted selflessly, disregarding his personal safety.


At a commemorative event on 5 October, Rear Admiral Scott Robertston applauded James’s embodiment of the Navy’s core values. He stated, “We can and should apply them every day,” recognising James’s life lesson.

Upon being honoured, James expressed his gratitude, remarking, “Thank you. I am humbled.”

When inquired about his instinctive act of bravery during the incident, James voiced his profound desire to shield his friends and stand up for his community. During the mayhem, he, alongside other attendees, managed to disarm the shooter.

The aftermath of the Club Q tragedy saw an outpouring of solidarity, with memorials erected to honour the victims. As James recuperated from his injuries, he shared his motivation for acting so courageously that fateful night: a desire to “save the family [he] found.” His message underscored resilience, unity, and defiance against hate.

He expressed, “To the youth, I say, be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging.”

The Club Q assailant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, was given five life sentences without parole in June. Judge Michael McHenry further added 2,208 years for attempted murder and another four for bias-motivated crimes, equivalent to hate crimes in other jurisdictions.