By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Army captain who was badly wounded thwarting a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on what he has called the worst day of his life will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on Thursday.
Retired Captain Florent Groberg, 32, will receive the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for valor, in a White House ceremony. He is the 10th living recipient to be awarded the medal for heroism in Afghanistan.
Groberg, who was born in Poissy, France, and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, is being honored for his actions during an ambush in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on Aug. 8, 2012.
The attack occurred as Groberg was heading a Fourth Infantry Division security detail as senior officers went to meet the provincial governor in Asadabad, northeastern Afghanistan.
He told the Army News Service that as the detail walked down a street, a man emerged from a building, walking backward and likely drugged.
Noticing a bulge under the man's clothing, Groberg shoved him away. When the man hit the ground, his explosive vest went off, spraying ball bearings and throwing Groberg and a second soldier about 15 feet (4.5 meters).
A second suicide bomber set off his vest nearly simultaneously, killing five people, the Army News Service said.
Groberg said he woke up in shock, realized he had lost his rifle and checked his pistol to be sure it had a round in the chamber. He thought he had stepped on an improvised explosive device.
"My fibia was sticking out of my left leg, my skin was melting, and there was blood everywhere," Groberg said. He continued to give orders even as he was loaded into a truck.
"That's when all the pain came in. It felt like a blow torch was burning through my leg," he said in the interview. "Aug. 8, 2012, was not a bad day; it was the worst day of my life."
Groberg, who went to high school in Bethesda, Maryland, and ran track and cross country at the University of Maryland, has undergone 33 surgeries to save his leg.
He spent almost three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington. Groberg medically retired from the Army in July.
He told the Washington Post that he would have preferred to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award for heroism, because of its lower profile.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Christian Plumb)