He tackled a suicide bomber to the ground, lessening the impact of a major attack on senior officers in Afghanistan. For that act of courage, President Obama presented retired Army Captain Florent Groberg with the Medal of Honor.
"On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That's the nature of courage," President Obama said of Cpt. Groberg at the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House today. "He showed his guts, he showed his training, how you put it all on the line for his teammates. That's an American we can all be grateful for."
But Cpt. Groberg, 32, said the medal belongs to the families of the four service members who died in the attack.
“These are the true heroes, guys who make the ultimate sacrifice, and their families who have to deal with it for the rest of their lives,” Groberg told ABC News.
It was a security detail operation he had completed many times, but on Aug. 8, 2012, Cpt. Groberg said something just felt off. His unit was escorting a group of senior officers to a meeting in Asadabad, Afghanistan, when “we had that eerie feeling, that something doesn’t fit.” That’s when Groberg saw a man walking backwards and parallel to their patrol, and he immediately knew the man was a threat.
Groberg approached the man and hit him with his rifle. He realized the man was wearing a suicide vest, so he tackled him to the ground. The vest detonated, gravely injuring Groberg’s leg, and causing another vest on a second suicide bomber to detonate prematurely.
“I couldn’t remember what happened, I got thrown 15 to 20 feet,” Groberg said about the hazy aftershock of the explosion. “I saw that my leg was injured so I thought I had stepped on an IED. My tibia was sticking out, I saw my foot was crooked and there was blood everywhere.”
Cpt. Groberg spent much of the last three years recovering at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
“The hardest part is when you can’t move and you know some of your guys are still out there in Afghanistan and there’s nothing you can do about it," he said. "You’re dealing with injuries but you still feel like you’re letting them down because you’re not there doing your job.”
The emotional toll of the attack was just as difficult. “We all had our demons," he noted. "Why Me? Why did I live?”
Today, Cpt. Groberg’s leg has mostly healed. He cannot run the way he used to (he was a varsity member of the University of Maryland’s track and field team), but he knows his new mission is even more important.
“I know it’s cliché and you hear this all the time but we’re just doing our jobs," he said. "If I could take this medal and give it back and have my guys back, it would be done yesterday. I just hope I’m the right courier for them."
As for the future, Cpt. Groberg intends to continuing serving. He is retired from the Army, but wants to focus on military policy at the Pentagon.
“I still want to serve my country as I did when I joined the service, until someone tells me I can’t do it anymore," he said.