Monday, November 30th, 2015

Florent Groberg

 I have published my EVERYDAY HEROES stories for over three years and continue to be amazed at the self-sacrifice and nobility displayed by the subjects of this monthly blog. Florent Groberg is no exception.

Florent, an Army captain who survived attacks by two suicide bombers moments apart but was badly wounded as he saved his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan received the Medal of Honor on November 12, 2015.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military honor and is given for "meritorious conduct involving great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life.

President Barack Obama awarded Army Captain (Ret.)  Florent Groberg the Congressional Medal of Honor for "his selfless service" during a deadly attack in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in August 8, 2012.

The president said, "He deployed to Afghanistan twice. First as a platoon leader, and a couple of years later when he was hand-picked to head up a security detail."

"Training. Guts. Teamwork. What made Flo a great runner also made him a great soldier," Obama said during the White House ceremony.

Groberg and five other soldiers provided a security detail for senior U.S. military leaders as they moved down a street toward the provincial governor's compound when an ambush occurred.

"August 8, 2012 was the worst day of my life," Groberg told CNN. "Things just felt different that day. I switched everything in regards to the way we position ourselves. I had a weird feeling inside. Spidey senses are ticking and you're kind of like, 'Alright, I don't like this.' "

Groberg, 32, said he saw an Afghan male in dark clothing exit a building and move backward toward his group.

"As soon as he was moving towards our patrol, I left my position to go meet him because he's a threat . . . ,” he said.

"So I hit him with my rifle and that's when I felt I hit a vest under his clothing. So at this point all I could do was just get him away as far as we could," Groberg said. "So I grabbed him by his vest and tried to push him down and throw him."

Groberg said his platoon sergeant pushed the man to the ground.

"And then he detonated at my feet," he said. "And then after that I was thrown 15 to 20 feet, unconscious ... you come back, and I wasn't hearing anything. I had a blown ear drum that took me a couple seconds to come back to reality."

And then a second suicide bomber appeared and blew himself up, killing four of Groberg's fellow soldiers.

"I couldn't remember what happened. I thought I had stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device). My fibia was sticking out of my left leg, my skin was melting, and there was blood everywhere," Groberg, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, told the Army News Service. "I checked myself for internal injuries and started to drag myself out of what was probably a kill zone for small-arms fire."

Despite his horrific wounds, Groberg tried to continue to lead his troops but needed medical attention and was put into an armored truck.

"That's when all the pain came in. It felt like a blow torch was burning through my leg," he told the Army News Service.

Obama said Groberg received the Medal of Honor because his efforts "prevented an even greater catastrophe."

"You see by pushing the bomber away from the formation, the explosion occurred farther from our forces and on the ground instead of the open air," Obama said. "Had both bombs gone off as planned, who knows how many could have been killed."

Groberg spent nearly three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before he retired in July. He required 33 surgeries.

Groberg is the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

EVERYDAY HERO Florent Groberg is yet another example of a soldier who put his teammates and his mission ahead of selfish self-preservation. Men like Groberg stand as models for all of us. Their bravery and sacrifice are difficult understand by most, but must be acknowledged and admired by all.

Joseph Badal is the award-winning author of nine best-selling suspense novels, including The Pythagorean Solution, Evil Deeds, Terror Cell, The Nostradamus Secret, The Lone Wolf Agenda, Shell Game, Ultimate Betrayal, and Borderline. His latest novel, Death Ship, was released on November 17, 2015.