Medal of Honor recipient shares experience, advice

By Kellie AbernethyApril 28, 2016

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Medal of Honor recipient shares experience, advice
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FORT BENNING, Ga. -- "That day was supposed to be just a simple day," said retired Capt. Florent Groberg, Medal of Honor recipient, referring to the day his world changed after a suicide bomber attacked his patrol escort in Afghanistan.

Groberg was at Fort Benning, April 25, to be inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame. While here, he had the opportunity to share his experience with a group of Officer Candidate students and veterans.

While serving on his second deployment, Groberg was a personal security detachment commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior. On Aug. 8, 2012, Groberg's patrol escort mission was moving on foot for a weekly security meeting.

"When we got there on that day, things didn't feel right," said Groberg of arriving at Forward Operating Base Fiaz where they were to move on foot to the Provincial Governor's Compound for the meeting.

As they approached a bridge on the way to the Governor's Compound, two motorcyclists approached. The motorcyclists, who were being used as a distraction, stopped midway and then ran away. In the midst of watching the motorcyclists, Groberg caught sight of an individual nearing the formation.

"They came at us, dropped their bikes and started running away. At that specific moment a man came out of a structure. Young man, 18-22, walking backwards."

Groberg immediately rushed the young man, yelling at him. The man wouldn't look at him or respond to his yelling, said Groberg. At that point Groberg couldn't see if he was carrying a weapon, so he hit him across the chest.

"I yelled at him and hit him, and I hit him across the chest. I felt something on his chest," said Groberg.

Groberg was face-to-face with a suicide bomber.

"All I could think was push him out. You're not thinking, you're reacting, you're doing, you're following through," said Groberg, who said he credits repetitive training that allowed his instincts to kick in.

Groberg pushed the man away from the patrol as far as he could, and was quickly aided by Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, who helped him drive the bomber to the ground. As soon as the bomber hit the ground, he detonated his explosive, which also caused a second hidden suicide bomber behind a structure to detonate his bomb prematurely.

"I was lucky that I got to serve with our nations finest. Because when I woke up from that blast, I should have died. I should have bled out," said Groberg who woke from the blast to find his leg badly injured.

Groberg's quick action saved the lives of many people in his 28-person coalition and Afghan National Army patrol that day. Unfortunately, four individuals lost their lives.

"I went through a lot of demons at Walter Reed. Three years at Walter Reed, that's a lot of demons. I was not a fun person to be around. I hated the world, hated myself, I had survivors guilt."

Ultimately, Groberg decided to destroy his demons and live his life for the four individuals who lost their lives.

"I will live my life for those four individuals and their Families, I will make them proud. I will honor them. I have been given a second chance at life, to make a difference, a positive difference. Four of my brothers are in heaven right now after making the ultimate sacrifice. I am here, I will represent that the rest of my life."

Groberg also took a moment to offer some specific advice to the Officer Candidate students in the audience.

"If you want to be successful as an officer, listen to your NCOs. That's it, that's the key," said Groberg.

Groberg encouraged each candidate to take their leadership seriously, telling them they have the greatest responsibility in the world.

"This country, specifically today, needs leaders. You are the future leaders. You represent them, you represent me," said Groberg. "You have the greatest responsibility in the world. Honestly I don't think there is a greater responsibility than that."

Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor in November 2015 for his heroic actions that day.

"This medal for me, specifically, represents those four men and their Families who the rest of their lives are going to be missing a key person in their family," said Groberg. "That person will not be there. But I will. My Family will. My friends will. I'm going to make darn sure I earn the right to be here because I had the honor, the privilege and the blessing to serve for the greatest organization in the world, the United States Army."

Related Links:

Medal of Honor: Capt. Florent Groberg Human Interest news

YouTube: Capt. Florent Groberg: 'The worst day of my life'