President Barack Obama is awarding the highest US military honor to a French-born former Army captain who tackled a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan. (Nov. 12)
AP

WASHINGTON — President Obama bestowed the nation’s highest military honor on an Army Captain who rushed a suicide bomber attacking his patrol in Afghanistan three years ago.

But retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg said the Congressional Medal of Honor doesn’t belong to him.

“This medal belongs to the true heroes,” he said. “It also belongs to their families, true heroes who live with that day every day missing one of the members of their families.”

Those heroes, he said, are the four other Americans killed in the attack: Army Command Sgt. Major Kevin Griffin, Army Major Thomas Kennedy, Air Force Major Walter Gray and U.S. Agency for International Development foreign service officer Ragaei Abdelfattah.

“The medal is the greatest honor you can ever receive,” Florent told reporters Thursday in the rain outside the White House. “So 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.”

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Groberg, or “Flo,” as Obama called him, was born in France in 1983, grew up in Bethesda, Md., and became a U.S. citizen the same year he graduated from high school. He competed on the track and cross-country teams at the University of Maryland where, Obama said, he worked hard to shave seconds off his times.

“As he found out later, a few seconds could make all the difference,” Obama said Thursday at a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House. “Training. Guts. Teamwork. What made Flo a great runner also made him a great soldier.”

Groberg was on his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, serving on a personal protection detail for Army Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general.

It was on that detail on Aug. 8, 2012, that his patrol was ambushed in a coordinated attack involving motorcycle decoys and two suicide bombers. Groberg spotted the first bomber, grabbing him by his vest and pushing him back until he fell, triggering an explosion knocking Groberg back 15 or 20 feet, breaking his leg and rupturing his eardrum.

Groberg spent nearly three years recovering at Walter Reed National National Military Medical Center. After 33 surgeries, he still walks with a slight limp. Retired from the military, he now serves as a civilian at the Department of Defense.

“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,” Obama said.

“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,” he said. “That’s precisely why we honor heroes like Flo — because on his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best.”

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