Next month, President Barack Obama will award the National Medal of Honor to former Army captain Florent A. Groberg. That will make this University of Maryland graduate only the tenth living person to receive the country’s highest military honor for service in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Groberg was born in France and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. While at the University of Maryland, Groberg ran track and cross country; he majored in criminology and criminal justice. After graduating, he enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan–where, in 2012, he tackled and subdued a suicide bomber to protect a group of senior officials he was guarding. “He knew the mission, saw the threat, and with complete disregard for himself, did everything to neutralize the threat,” said brigade commander Col. Charles Mingus, one of the men Groberg was protecting that day. As the man fell, he detonated an explosive hidden under his jacket; shortly afterward, a second bomber detonated a device that seriously wounded several soldiers.
In the process, Groberg badly injured his leg. Ultimately, he lost about half his left calf muscle (along with a blown eardrum and “mild traumatic brain injury”); he’s since had 33 surgeries to attempt to repair his leg. Four other service members were killed in the attack.
Groberg will receive his medal at a ceremony at the White House on November 12. “It’s one of those things where you’re confused on the inside a little bit for how to feel about it,” he told the Army Times. “You’re receiving an award for the worst day of your life, a day that you lost four incredible individuals, a day that I’ll never forget, that lives on every day when you wake up.”
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