WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) ─ A retired U.S. Army captain who shoved aside a suicide bomber to save fellow soldiers and dignitaries in Afghanistan was awarded the Medal of Honor on Thursday.
Capt. Florent Groberg, 32, was badly injured in the August 2012 attack that left four dead. In his second deployment to Afghanistan, Groberg was assigned to a security detail to escort senior officers to a meeting when they encountered the bomber. He and Sgt. Andrew Mahoney “shoved the bomber again and again. And they pushed him so hard he fell to the ground onto his chest. And then the bomb detonated,” President Barack Obama said at a White House ceremony.
“By pushing the bomber away from the formation, the explosion occurred farther from our forces, and on the ground instead of in the open air. And while Flo didn’t know it at the time, that explosion also caused a second, unseen bomb to detonate before it was in place,” Obama said, calling Groberg by his nickname. “Had both bombs gone off as planned, who knows how many could have been killed.”
Groberg suffered massive leg injuries, losing up to 50 percent of his left calf muscle with significant nerve damage, a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury. He spent almost three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and medically retired in July.
Born in Poissy, France, Groberg became a naturalized United States citizen in 2001. After graduating from the University of Maryland, where he ran track and cross country, he joined the Army in 2008. He attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. In his first deployment in 2009, he was sent to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Lethal, with responsibility for the Pech River Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province.
In his second deployment, he was sent to the Kunar Province again. On Aug. 28, 2012, he was a security commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior — responsible for the safety of 28 coalition and Afghan National Army personnel, including two brigade commanders, two battalion commanders, the brigade command sergeant major, a battalion command sergeant major and an ANA battalion commander. The mission was to move the group on foot to the provincial governor’s compound for a weekly security meeting.
As the group walked across a small bridge, two motorcyclists approached from the opposite direction. The motorcyclists stopped midway, got off and ran away. Groberg quickly learned they were a diversion when he spotted a man walking backwards towards the patrol.
“And at that moment, Flo did something extraordinary — he grabbed the bomber by his vest and kept pushing him away. And all those years of training on the track, in the classroom, out in the field — all of it came together,” Obama said. “In those few seconds, he had the instincts and the courage to do what was needed.”
Groberg was thrown some 20 feet and knocked unconscious from the blast. Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, Maj. Tom Kennedy, Maj. David Gray and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfatah died in the blast.
During the medal ceremony, Groberg praised the four men, saying the Medal of Honor belongs to those “who made the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t come home.
“It also belongs to their families, true heroes who live with that day every day missing one of the members of their families,” he said. “I’m honored, overwhelmed, but I hope to become the right carrier for them and better myself as a human being for the rest of my life.”
Groberg is the 10th survivor of the Afghanistan war to receive the nation’s highest military honor.