For more than 1,000 years, the ancient Romans celebrated the military achievements of their best Soldiers with something known as a Triumph. A Triumph was a public celebration of epic proportion - trumpeters, parades, games and festivals. The celebrated Soldier rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in procession with his army, captives and the spoils of his war.
Flo, I'm not sure what the motorpool arrived with this morning, picking you up today, but I'm guessing it was our modern version of a chariot -- a minivan. An for that, I apologize.
Regardless, it's great to see you again.
To everyone here, welcome. This too is a great celebration. It is a great moment for America and for our Army.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. Gen. Milley, SGM Dailey and our Medal of Honor recipients -- thank you for your presence as well.
And Carsen, Flo's amazing girlfriend, my former neighbor, welcome. Keep in mind I am saying this about a Medal of Honor recipient, but Flo -- you are dating up.
And a special welcome to Flo's brothers and sisters in arms and the families of the fallen, the Gold Star families here today. It speaks to the strength of the bond you share, that so many of you are here to join in this moment with your teammate and friend.
Flo, I am honored to be part of your celebration -- this well-deserved Triumph.
I am also in awe, that despite your extraordinary honors and accolades, you continue to display deep humility, and never forget to express deep gratitude for those you served alongside. In or out of uniform, you continue to do our Army proud.
Celebrations like these are important to our Nation and to the Army because they act as an outlet for the pride and admiration shared by so many. They provide us a chance to reaffirm the basic values that military, as a Profession of Arms, hold so dear.
They also serve as a reminder to those whose freedoms are defended, that each and every day, in more than 150 locations around the world -- often unseen and usually unsung - the men and women of the United States Army, alongside their Marine, Air Force and Navy brothers and sisters are always on point, demonstrating their devotion to serving causes greater than themselves, and to carrying out America's commitment to peace and security across the world.
These Soldiers do these things not for glory, not for empire, not for treasure, not even for personal triumph, but because they are the right things -- the difficult things - that must be done.
Like the brothers in arms who served and protected one another in Kunar Province, like the Soldiers who Flo selflessly sought to protect -- they look out for one another because they know, like all Americans, that we are in this together.
Our Soldiers make choices based on deeply ingrained values, taught in basic training, fostered by education and time in service, and developed and demonstrated in combat. The Army Values as Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
I thought about finding seven stories to illustrate how Flo exemplifies each of these values, but he displayed them all simultaneously in one day, in one brief but decisive moment in Afghanistan three years ago.
I have had the honor to spend time with Flo over these past few weeks, and because of that humility I have seen first-hand, I was not surprised when Flo expressed a set of conflicted emotions about today's celebration.
"Imagine," he said, "being honored for the worst day of your life."
Even though Flo and his team defeated the enemy that day, he lost, as he told me, four of his "brothers:"
Command Sergeant Major Kevin J. Griffin
Major Thomas E. Kennedy
Major Walter D. Gray, and
Mr. Ragaei Abdelfattah
"They are the true heroes," he said. "They sacrificed everything for their country."
That loss is deep and it is real. The scarred, silver bracelet on Flo's right wrist is testament to his devotion. It's a reminder that soldiering is a family business. These men and women eat, sleep, train and fight together, and tragically, some make the ultimate sacrifice.
Together they are selflessly devoted to causes bigger than themselves. They are, in every sense of the phrase, brothers and sisters.
Flo, I know you are conflicted about this day, but thank you for allowing us to honor you.
I know that having some of the family members of the fallen here in the audience is both welcome and wonderful for Flo.
Since returning from Afghanistan he's spent time with them; sharing in their grief, rejoicing in their memories and living lives worthy of their sacrifice.
I often ask myself where we find such men and women of unshakable personal courage and conviction.
People with such loyalty and respect for one another and for their country that they volunteer to step out into a dark and dangerous world for the sake of others…for the values we believe in.
How else can you explain what Flo did that day in Assadabad? His 8-second sprint into destiny?
The answer is simple. They are the very essence of the American spirit, found in every village, town and city in this Nation. They are the embodiment of the ideas and ideals that we as a people hold so dear.
But they are unique and special people, as Flo's actions attest. That they would voluntarily stand up, over and over again, and say, "Send me," is a powerful reminder to us all.
And selflessly stand up, they do. For as Flo so simply but eloquently put it, "If not me…then who?"
Men and women like this are not just in the Army, they are the Army.
Thankfully for us, Flo came to this Army brimming with similar values instilled in him by his parents, Klara and Larry Groberg, whom I've also had the pleasure of getting to know. Thank you very much for being here today.
Brigadier General Mingus, who is also here today, Flo's former commanding officer and one of the survivors of that awful day, said of him and his family: "The apple didn't fall far from the tree." Klara and Larry, thank you both for raising such a fine man. Today is your triumph as well.
That Flo loves this Army and his teammates there is little doubt. Since he was nine years old, all he ever wanted to be was an American Soldier, he said. A helper. A defender. A trusted, loyal teammate.
He proved his mettle at places like the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Mechanized Leaders Course, U.S. Army Airborne and U.S. Army Ranger Schools.
His last test was as the brigade personal security detachment commander for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. BG Mingus hand-picked him for the post.
Looking back, the very best times of his life, he said, were when he was on deployment with his Soldiers. They knew they were making a difference in this world. And they were doing it together.
And while Flo's dream of one day commanding an Infantry Rifle Company will not come to pass, thankfully for us he will continue to serve his country in a new civilian role here at the Pentagon.
As it has been said, there are many ways to serve, but guiding us is the same spirit. Or as Flo put it, "I'm on the same journey…I just got on a different boat."
Flo, Captain Groberg, thank you for your journey. Thank you for living out the Army's values. Thank you for your honorable service.
And thank you, above all, for taking care of your brothers and sisters.