WASHINGTON — A brave 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 today.
President Barack Obama awarded (Ret.) Army Captain Florent Groberg the honor for what the White House called “his selfless service” during a deadly attack in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in August 2012.
Groberg and five other soldiers were providing a security detail for senior U.S. military leaders as they were heading down a street toward the provincial governor’s compound when an ambush started to unfold, according to a story about the incident on the U.S. Army’s official homepage.
“A man came out of a building to our left walking backwards,” said Groberg, 32. “It was eerie and looked suspicious. I yelled at him and he turned around immediately and then started walking towards us. He looked like a young man with a beard, wearing man-jams and dark clothing. He didn’t appear to be himself that day … most likely drugged.”
Noticing a bulge under the man’s clothing, Groberg and his platoon sergeant rushed the man.
“Sgt. Mahoney to my left moved in with me and struck him, then Mahoney and I threw him. I pushed him as hard as I could away from our patrol, because I felt he was a threat. I just wanted to make sure he wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Groberg recalled in the story by the Army News Service.
Moments later, the man detonated a suicide bomb that knocked Groberg 5 feet, seriously injuring him.
Moments later, a second suicide bomber appeared and blew himself up, killing five 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 paper. “I checked myself for internal injuries and started to drag myself out of what was probably a kill zone for small-arms fire.”
He attempted to continue leading his troops but needed medical attention and was put into in 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. “Aug. 8, 2012, was not a bad day; it was the worst day of my life.”
Groberg, who grew up in Maryland, spent nearly three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before medically retiring in July. He required 33 surgeries to keep his badly injured leg. He was born in France and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001. Groberg ran track at the University of Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s in criminology and criminal justice before joining the military.
Groberg is the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. He and his family attended the White House ceremony.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military honor and is given for “meritorious conduct [that] must involve 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.”