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The President Presents the Medal of Honor to Captain Groberg

The President Presents the Medal of Honor to Captain Groberg


Male Speaker: Almighty God, we hear your
words in the psalmist “how can we the Lord for
his goodness to me?” Today, we remember
your goodness, in the sacrifice of
all our soldiers. Heal our hearts from the
tears of their grieving families. Be with us as we honor
the actions of our heroes. We give thanks for their
sacred calling to serve. To protect. To defend our nation and our
way of life without counting the cost. May this heroic and virtuous
soldier be an example for future generations. May his life serve as a
beacon for our young men and women who run to the sound
of the guns for the sake of humanity. For the sake of the nation
they have come to love. In your holy name, we pray. Amen. The President:
Please be seated. Good morning,
and welcome to the White House. A little more than three years ago, as Captain Florent Groberg
was recovering from his wounds as a consequence of
the actions that we honor today, he woke up
on a hospital bed, in a little bit of a haze. He wasn’t sure, but he
thought he was in Germany, and someone was at his
bedside talking to him. He thought it was the lead
singer from the heavy metal band Korn. (laughter) Flo thought,
“What’s going on? Am I hallucinating?” But he wasn’t. It was all real. And so today, Flo, I
want to assure you, you are not hallucinating. You are actually
in the White House. Those cameras are on. I am not the lead
singer from Korn. (laughter) We are here to award you our
nation’s highest military honor — distinction,
the Medal of Honor. Now, Flo and I have
actually met before. Three years ago, I was on
one of my regular visits to Walter Reed to spend some
time with our wounded warriors — and Flo
was one of them. We talked. It turns out he liked the
Chicago Bears — so I liked him right away. (laughter) And I had a chance to meet
his parents who could not be more gracious and charming,
and you get a sense of where Flo gets his character from. It is wonderful to
see both of you again. I also want to welcome
Flo’s girlfriend Carsen, who apparently,
Flo tells me, he had to help paint an
apartment with just the other day. So there’s some
honeydew lists going on. (laughter) His many friends, fellow
soldiers and family, all of our
distinguished guests. A day after Veterans Day, we
honor this American veteran, whose story — like so many
of our vets and wounded warriors — speaks not
only of gallantry on the battlefield, but
resilience here at home. As a teenager just up
the road in Bethesda, Flo discovered he had an
incredible gift — he could run. Fast. Half-mile, mile, two mile —
he’d leave his competition in the dust. He was among the
best in the state. And he went on to run track
and cross country at the University of Maryland. Flo’s college coach
called him “the consummate teammate.” As good as he was in
individual events, somehow he always found a
little extra something when he was running on a
relay, with a team. Distance running is really
all about guts — and as one teammate said, Flo could
“suffer a little more than everyone else could.” So 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 off a second or two off his times. And as he’d find out later,
a few seconds can make all the difference. Training. Guts. Teamwork. What made Flo a great
runner also made him a great soldier. In the Army, Flo again took
his training seriously — hitting the books
in the classroom, paying attention to every
detail in field exercises — because he knew that he
had to be prepared for any scenario. He deployed to
Afghanistan twice; first as a platoon leader,
and then a couple of years later when he was
hand-picked to head up a security detail. And so it was on an August
day three years ago that Flo found himself leading a
group of American and Afghan soldiers as they escorted
their commanders to a meeting with local Afghans. It was a journey that the
team had done many times before — a short
walk on foot, including passage
over a narrow bridge. At first, they
passed pedestrians, a few cars and bicycles,
even some children. But then they began to
approach the bridge, and a pair of motorcycles
sped toward them from the other side. The Afghan troops shouted
at the bikers to stop — and they did, ditching their
bikes in the middle of the bridge and running away. And that’s when Flo noticed
something to his left — a man, dressed in dark
clothing, walking backwards, just some 10 feet away. The man spun around
and turned toward them, and that’s when Flo
sprinted toward him. He pushed him away from the
formation, and as he did, he noticed an object under
the man’s clothing — a bomb. The motorcycles had
been a diversion. 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. In those few seconds, he
had the instincts and the courage to do
what was needed. One of Flo’s comrades,
Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, had joined in, too, and
together they 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. Ball bearings, debris,
dust exploded everywhere. Flo was thrown some 15 or
20 feet and was knocked unconscious. And moments later, he woke
up in the middle of the road in shock. His eardrum was blown out. His leg was broken
and bleeding badly. Still, he realized that
if the enemy launched a secondary attack, he’d
be a sitting duck. When a comrade found
him in the smoke, Flo had his pistol out,
dragging his wounded body from the road. That blast by the bridge
claimed four American heroes — four heroes Flo wants
us to remember today. One of his mentors, a
24-year Army vet who always found time for Flo and any
other soldier who wanted to talk — Command Sergeant
Major Kevin Griffin. A West Pointer who loved
hockey and became a role model to cadets and troops
because he always “cared more about other people
than himself” — Major Tom Kennedy. A popular Air Force leader
known for smiling with his “whole face,” someone who
always seemed to run into a friend wherever he went
— Major David Gray. And finally, a USAID foreign
service officer who had just volunteered for a second
tour in Afghanistan; a man who moved to the
United States from Egypt and reveled in
everything American, whether it was Disneyland
or chain restaurants or roadside pie — Ragaei Abdelfattah. These four men
believed in America. They dedicated their
lives to our country. They died serving it. Their families — loving
wives and children, parents and siblings — bear
that sacrifice most of all. So while Ragaei’s family
could not be with us today, I’d ask three Gold Star
families to please stand and accept our deepest thanks. (applause) Today, we honor Flo because
his actions prevented an even greater catastrophe. You see, 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. Had both bombs gone
off as planned, who knows how many
could have been killed. Those are the lives
Flo helped to save. And we are honored that
many of them are here today. Brigadier General
James Mingus. Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, who
was awarded a Silver Star for joining Flo in
confronting the attacker. Sergeant First
Class Brian Brink, who was awarded a Bronze
Star with Valor for pulling Flo from the road. Specialist Daniel
Balderrama, the medic who helped
to save Flo’s leg. Private First Class Benjamin
Secor and Sergeant Eric Ochart, who also served with
distinction on that day. Gentlemen, I’d ask you to
please stand and accept the thanks of a grateful
nation, as well. (applause) At Walter Reed, Flo began
his next mission — the mission to recover. He suffered significant
nerve damage, and almost half of the calf
muscle in his left leg had been blown off. So the leg that had powered
him around that track, the leg that moved so
swiftly to counter the bomber — that leg had
been through hell and back. Thanks to 33 surgeries and
some of the finest medical treatment a person can ask
for, Flo kept that leg. He’s not running, but he’s
doing a lot of CrossFit. I would not challenge
him to CrossFit. (laughter) He’s putting some hurt on
some rowing machines and some stair climbers. I think it is fair
to say he is fit. Today, Flo is
medically retired. But like so many of his
fellow veterans of our 9/11 Generation, Flo
continues to serve. As I said yesterday
at Arlington, that’s what our veterans
do — they are incredibly highly skilled, dynamic
leaders always looking to write that next chapter
of service to America. For Flo, that means a
civilian job with the Department of Defense to
help take care of our troops and keep our
military strong. And every day that
he is serving, he will be wearing a
bracelet on his wrist — as he is today — a bracelet
that bears the names of his brothers in arms who gave
their lives that day. The truth is, Flo says that
day was the worst day of his life. And that is the stark
reality behind these Medal of Honor ceremonies —
that for all the valor we celebrate, and 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. That’s the nature of courage
— not being unafraid, but confronting fear and
danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he
showed his training; how he would put it all on
the line for his teammates. That’s an American we
can all be grateful for. It’s why we honor Captain
Florent Groberg today. May God bless all who serve
and all who have given their lives to our country. We are free because of them. May God bless their families
and may God continue to bless the United States of
America with heroes such as these. Military Aide: The President
of the United States of America, authorized by act
of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the
name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
Captain Florent A. Groberg, United States Army. Captain Florent A. Groberg distinguished
himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk
of his life above and beyond the call of duty while
serving as a personal security detachment
commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, Fourth
Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry
Division during combat operations against an
armed enemy in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan,
on August 8, 2012. On that day, Captain Groberg
was leading a dismounted movement consisting of
several senior leaders to include two
brigade commanders, two battalion commanders,
two command sergeants major, and an Afghanistan National
Army brigade commander. As they approached the
provincial governor’s compound, Captain Groberg
observed an individual walking close to
the formation. While the individual made
an abrupt turn towards the formation, he noticed an
abnormal bulge underneath the individual’s clothing. Selflessly placing himself
in front of one of the brigade commanders, Captain
Groberg rushed forward using his body to push the suspect
away from the formation. Simultaneously, he ordered
another member of the security detail to assist
with removing the suspect. At this time, Captain
Groberg confirmed the bulge was a suicide vest. And with complete
disregard for this life, Captain Groberg, again, with
the assistance of the other member of the
security detail, physically pushed the
suicide bomber away from the formation. Upon falling, the suicide
bomber detonated his explosive vest outside
of the perimeter of the formation, killing four
members of the formation and wounding numerous others. The blast from the first
suicide bomb caused the suicide vest of a previously
unnoticed second suicide bomber to detonate
prematurely with minimal impact on the formation. Captain Groberg’s immediate
actions to push the first suicide bomber away from
the formation significantly minimized the impact of the
coordinated suicide bombers’ attack on the formation,
saving the lives of his comrades and several
senior leaders. Captain Groberg’s
extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and
beyond the call of duty at the risk of his life on
keeping with the highest traditions of the
military service, and reflect great
credit upon himself, Fourth Infantry
Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division,
and the United States Army. (applause) The President: Tha
concludes the formal portion of this ceremony. I need to take some pictures
with the outstanding team members, as well as the Gold
Start families who are here today, as Flo reminds us
this medal, in his words, honors them as much as any honors that are bestowed upon him. And on Veterans Day Week, that is particularly appropriate. I want to thank all of our
servicemembers who are here today, all who
could not attend. And I hope you enjoy an
outstanding reception. I hear the food is
pretty good here. (laughter) Thank you very
much, everybody. (applause) Give Captain Groberg a big
round of applause again. Thank you. (applause)


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