Medal of Honor recipient's mother: 'It makes you feel humbled by your own kid'
By JAKOB RODGERS | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: October 15, 2015
Note: This article has been corrected.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo, (Tribune News Service) — A retired Fort Carson captain will be awarded the Medal of Honor for tackling a suicide bomber during a 2012 attack that killed two officers and a brigade's top enlisted soldier, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Florent Groberg, 32, will receive the medal Nov. 12 in a ceremony at the White House — making him the third Fort Carson soldier to receive the military's highest honor for conspicuous gallantry during the war in Afghanistan.
Groberg's mother, who lived with him at a hospital while he endured dozens of surgeries, said the announcement caught her by surprise.
"He never thought about himself ... he did his job," said Klara Groberg, from her home in Bethesda, Md. "And I feel the same way. Suddenly all this honor — it just makes you feel so humbled by your own kid."
Attempts to reach Groberg were not successful Wednesday.
Born in France where his father worked for Motorola, Groberg moved stateside at age 11. He learned English while in Bethesda and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001. A cross country runner at the University of Maryland, he earned a bachelor's degree and went to work for a well-paying technology company, Klara Groberg said.
But he quit in 2008 to join the Army — graduating from Ranger School and deploying twice to Afghanistan.
His second tour ended Aug. 8, 2012, in a surprise attack.
That day, Groberg led the security team in charge of protecting several high-ranking military leaders, including two colonels, as they walked along a street in Asadabad, Afghanistan. Groberg recalled everything during a 2013 interview with The Gazette at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Suddenly, a man walking backward and "acting real iffy" turned and ran toward Col. James Mingus, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Groberg met the man, hit him and threw him to the ground with the help of a sergeant. That's when the bomb-laced vest exploded.
Groberg woke up 30 feet from where he last stood — ball bearings having torn through one of his legs. A medic with two torn knee ligaments rushed to Groberg, and someone hauled him into an armored vehicle.
"It felt like body took a blowtorch, just fricking burning my leg," he said. "My leg was melting . it was the worst pain I ever felt."
Before being carried away, though, Groberg heard a status report: "KIA, sir. All of them, KIA."
Another suicide bomber had rushed in from a different direction — simultaneous attacks that killed three Fort Carson men.
Command Sgt. Major Kevin Griffin, the 4th Brigade's top enlisted soldier, died, along with Maj. Thomas Kennedy and Maj. Walter Gray, an Air Force officer who helped coordinate air strikes.
Griffin's death tore at Groberg, who considered him a second father, Klara Groberg said.
"He never agreed to be called a hero," Klara Groberg said. "It really didn't fit well with him."
Doctors at Walter Reed were able to save Groberg's injured leg, despite the captain having lost 45 percent of the muscles in his left calf. Doing so took dozens of surgeries.
"I stopped counting at 32," his mother said.
Klara Groberg stayed with her son for 10 months at the hospital. During that time, a host of celebrities and politicians visited him, including Chicago White Sox players, NASCAR driver Kurt Busch and President Barack Obama.
But the captain struggled to stay still. He insisted on visiting other soldiers in the hospital to cheer their spirits — even when he should have been getting consoled himself, his mother said.
"That's the kind of guy he is," Klara Groberg said.
Groberg medically retired in July, but not before occasionally visiting his Fort Carson comrades in Colorado between surgeries.
One time, he watched Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the soldier who helped Groberg take down one of the bombers, receive the Silver Star. It is the military's third-highest award for valor.
He also visited Mingus, who has since been promoted to brigadier general. A formal ceremony for Mingus is planned for next week marking his new assignment as deputy commander of Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division.
Next up, though, is a trip to the White House.
There, Groberg will again meet Obama — this time, to formally become the 10th living person to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan.
©2015 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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