President Obama Praises Walter Johnson Grad’s Courage at Medal of Honor Ceremony

President Obama Praises Walter Johnson Grad’s Courage at Medal of Honor Ceremony

Capt. Florent Groberg received the distinction Thursday at the White House for his life-saving actions in Afghanistan in 2012

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President Barack Obama applauds Capt. Florent Groberg after presenting him with the Medal of Honor at the White House Thursday

via the White House on Twitter

President Barack Obama presented Army Capt. Florent Groberg with the Medal of Honor Thursday for confronting and tackling a suicide bomber in Afghanistan’s Konar Province in 2012.

The suicide attack killed four others, but Groberg survived, despite losing half of his left calf muscle and suffering a traumatic brain injury in an explosion that sent his body flying more than 15 feet. Groberg’s actions helped save the lives of his fellow platoon members.

Obama honored the 32-year-old Walter Johnson High School graduate who goes by the nickname “Flo” with the nation’s highest military distinction during a ceremony at the White House. Groberg’s family came to America from France and first moved to Chicago before later setting in Potomac. Obama told the audience that Groberg was a talented long-distance runner who excelled on the University of Maryland’s Track and Field team.

“A teammate said Flo could suffer a little more than everyone else could,” Obama said. “Day after day, month after month, he pushed himself to his limit. He knew that every long run, every sprint, every interval could help shave a second or two off his times. As he’d found out later, a few seconds can make all the difference.”

Obama explained that Groberg was handpicked to work on a security detail to escort Afghan and American commanders to a meeting with local Afghan officials on the day of the attack, Aug. 8, 2012. As the detail crossed a narrow bridge on foot in a diamond formation, two motorcycles approached rapidly, but their riders jumped off and ran away. Seconds later, Groberg noticed a man in dark clothing about 10 feet away who was walking backwards toward the soldiers. According to Obama, the man then spun around and that’s when Groberg sprinted toward him and noticed he was wearing a bomb.

“At that moment,” Obama said, “Flo did something extraordinary, he grabbed the bomber by his chest and pushed him away.”

Groberg and another soldier, Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, threw the man to the ground just as the bomb detonated. The explosion hurled Groberg 15 to 20 feet and knocked him unconscious. He later awoke in the middle of the road in shock, with his leg broken and bleeding badly. The explosion of the first bomb also caused a second, unseen bomb to detonate, Obama said.

“If both bombs went off as planned, who knows how many could have been killed,” Obama said.

The explosion took the lives of Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, 45; Army Maj. Thomas Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter Gray, 38; and Foreign Service officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43. Obama noted that Groberg wanted those men to be remembered during the ceremony.

“Flo says that was the worst day of his life,” Obama said. “That’s the stark reality of these Medal of Honor ceremonies—for all the valor that we celebrate, all the courage that inspires us, these actions were demanded amid some of the most dreadful moments of war. That’s precisely why we honor heroes like Flo, because on his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best.”

After 33 surgeries and three years of treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Groberg is able to walk and he still has his left leg. He’s now medically retired from the military and holds a civilian job with the Department of Defense.

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