For Medal of Honor Day, recipient recounts tackling suicide bomber in Afghanistan to protect Army ‘brothers’ – Fox News

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National Medal of Honor Day, March 25, recognizes U.S. military members who have accomplished acts of valor in service.

On behalf of Congress, the president of the U.S. awards the Medal of Honor to select military personnel who have remarkable stories of courage and commitment.

A 2015 Medal of Honor recipient — Florent “Flo” Groberg, a 40-year-old wounded veteran and retired U.S. Army captain — shared one of those unforgettable stories in an interview with Fox News Digital this week.

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Groberg, a French immigrant who came to America at age 11, said he was first introduced to the “world of evil” after his uncle was killed by a terrorist organization in Algeria in 1996.

“That shook my world,” he said. “It introduced me to the world of pain.”

flo groberg and president obama

President Barack Obama applauds Medal of Honor recipient retired U.S. Army Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington November 12, 2015.  (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 – seven months after he became a U.S. citizen – Groberg said he felt even more compelled to protect his people and “be a part of the solution.”

Groberg received a degree from the University of Maryland in 2006, then enlisted with the U.S. Army, deploying to Afghanistan in Nov. 2009.

Groberg was faced with a dilemma that would cost some soldiers their lives.

“I wanted to be the best of the best,” he said. “I fully understood the requirements of the position — which meant that one day I would be in combat and I would have to make decisions.”

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“I went in as an officer and after 16 months of training, next thing you know, you’re in Afghanistan and you’re leading a team of 24 individuals.”

On his second Afghanistan tour in August 2012, Groberg was faced with a dilemma that would cost some soldiers their lives.

‘Worst day of your life’

On Aug. 8, 2012, Groberg led his crew through Kunar Province, Afghanistan. There had been planned attacks in that location by an Afghan terror group, which included two suicide bombers waiting to hit one of the U.S. Army units.

“Unfortunately, they picked us,” he said. “It was an incredibly heavy leadership group that we were escorting, and so they saw this as a prime opportunity to cause damage.”

flo groberg in army uniform

On Aug. 8, 2012, Groberg served as a personal security detachment commander during combat operations in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

The opposition created a diversion with motorcycles to stop the movement of Groberg’s unit while one individual approached the group dressed in a suicide vest.

“I didn’t see him at first because everyone was focused on the motorcycles,” he said. “I had my platoon sergeant in front of me… and he stared at my left, and I saw him start raising his weapon.”

He added, “And that’s when I saw this guy out of nowhere, about 20 feet from us, walking backward, parallel and acting in a shady way.”

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Groberg said the man started “walking toward us really fast” — to which Groberg reacted with his own “escalation of force.”

He said, “I ran toward him. I said some really nice words that I wouldn’t repeat to my mom, and I hit him with my rifle across the chest when I got to him.”

medal of honor

The Medal of Honor for retired U.S. Army Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg (not pictured) is seen before the presentation in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 12, 2015.  (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

“Realizing at that point that he was wearing a suicide vest, I just grabbed him by the vest and pushed him as far away from everybody as quickly as I could, yelling, ‘Bomb! Bomb! Bomb!’ And then I threw him to the ground.”

The soldier shared that all he could think of at that moment was protecting his “brothers” from the threat.

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“You don’t think about the consequences of that action,” he said. “You think about doing your job.”

The bomb detonated after Groberg pushed the bomber to the ground — which threw the soldier about 30 feet into the air.

He woke up “a couple of minutes later” to the sight of his foot “facing” him and an exposed fibula.

flo groberg awarded medal of honor by obama

President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12, 2015.  (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

“I was bleeding everywhere,” he said. “I took my helmet off my head. It was loose, [I] obviously had a pretty severe concussion… I knew that I was probably in the kill zone.”

Groberg was able to inch himself out of the “kill zone” until SFC Brian Brink grabbed him by his vest and took him to a medic — who saved his life by applying a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

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The soldier’s moment of bravery — the decision to tackle the suicide bomber — all came down to the “love of brotherhood and sisterhood,” he said.

“I talk a lot about the importance of love in war,” he said. “I went into war with a lot of hatred and anger against the enemy.”

“I fully understood the requirements of the position, which meant that one day I would be in combat, and I would have to make decisions.”

Groberg went on, “And I realized that the power of war for us, as a fighting force, is the clear understanding of what true love is, which is love of brotherhood and sisterhood, the idea that you’re willing to die for each other, no matter who you are.”

And “because you’re wearing that uniform, you find a way to learn from each other, appreciate each other, love each other to the point where you’re willing to die for each other.”

flo groberg at nationals game

Medal of Honor recipient retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg listens to the national anthem after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals game at Nationals Park on May 29, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

While Groberg survived a gruesome encounter that day, the veteran said the worst of the incident was the loss of four Americans in the blast. They were killed by ball bearings that the bomb deployed. 

Those soldiers include U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, U.S. Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, U.S. Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray and USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah.

“These were four amazing individuals who were nowhere near the blast,” he said.” And [I] lived when I was literally on top of the guy who blew up.” 

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Said Groberg, “It changed my life, as you can imagine — but I’m here today alive [and] I get the opportunity to say those names, which is, to me, the most important thing in the world other than my family.”

In 2015, President Obama presented Groberg with the Medal of Honor for his heroism. Yet the veteran admitted that it “wasn’t a good day.”

He told Fox News Digital, “Nothing that you do in the military is about one individual. It’s always about the team and the mission.”

president obama embraces flo groberg

President Obama embraces Medal of Honor recipient retired U.S. Army Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 12, 2015.  (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

“And so, when you’re singled out and highlighted for the worst day of your life, but also for something that you felt that you failed because four guys died, I felt a little bit of shame.”

Groberg spoke with President Obama about highlighting the four men who lost their lives and invited their families to attend the ceremony.

“My Medal of Honor is not mine,” he said. “It represents those four guys because they’re the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The road to recovery

As a result of the blast, Groberg suffered a traumatic brain injury and was left completely deaf in his left ear. He has only 50% of his left calf remaining.

This caused numbness below the knee, plus at the bottom of his foot, so he had to relearn how to walk.

Besides other “little injuries,” Groberg mentioned the toll of mental ailments, including PTSD, which he’s been able to combat with his support team, he said.

“Post-traumatic stress is something that almost every war fighter gets and goes through,” he said. “And you have to identify it because war changes you.”

He added, “I went through a lot of survivor’s guilt, a lot of blaming. I was suicidal early on in my recovery and mostly due to the drugs that they were giving me.”

Throughout his entire recovery, Groberg, who currently lives in Dallas, Texas, shared that the support from his wife, Carsen, helped him the most.

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“I will never forget: The first night that I had the opportunity to sleep next to her is the first night that I slept without any type of Ambien or sleeping pills in two plus years,” he said. 

“I was like, ‘This girl, she’s different.’ So obviously I married her.”

Groberg also shouted out the Semper Fi & America’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that assists and supports wounded veterans and their families.

the grobergs with baby

The Grobergs have a 15-month-old son. Flo Groberg joked that he has “too much of me in him.” (Semper Fi & America’s Fund )

The Fund reached out to Groberg while he was still recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to discuss his post-military aspirations.

In working with The Fund, Groberg gained the ability to financially recover. He was able to purchase a car at a “drastically” reduced cost.

“For me, it was about fighting against an evil that wanted to hurt the United States of America.”

“How blessed we are that there’s an organization like The Fund that’s out there committed to us,” he said. 

“They never forget, and it’s the best representation of our country.”

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Added Groberg, “For me, it was about fighting against an evil that wanted to hurt the United States of America. And it was the greatest job I’ve ever had in my life.”

He also noted, “So now that I’m home and I have an organization like The Fund that’s around to support us … it’s something that I’m truly blessed with.”

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