Obama awards Medal of Honor to French-born U.S. Army captain

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2015 12:44 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. distinction for valor, on Thursday to retired Army Captain Florent Groberg for thwarting an Afghan suicide bomb attack that left him badly wounded.

Groberg, 32, received the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony. A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Poissy, France, he is the 10th living recipient to be awarded the medal for heroism in Afghanistan.

Groberg "says that day was the worst day of his life, and that is the stark reality behind these Medal of Honor ceremonies," Obama said.

"On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best," Obama added.

Groberg was honored for his actions during an ambush in Asadabad, northeastern 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.

Obama said that as the detail walked down a street, a man emerged from a building, walking backward about 10 feet (3 meters) away.

When the man turned around, Groberg noticed a bulge under his clothing, sprinted toward him and shoved the man away. When the man hit the ground, his explosive vest went off, spraying ball bearings and throwing Groberg and a second soldier, Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, about 15 feet (4.5 meters).

A second suicide bomber set off his vest nearly simultaneously, and four Americans were killed in the attack, Obama said.

Groberg's eardrums were punctured and he was knocked out. When he regained consciousness, he took out his pistol and began crawling to the roadside to avoid possible small-arms fire, Obama said.

In an interview with the Army News Service last month, Groberg said 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.

Groberg, who went to high school in Bethesda, Maryland, and ran track and cross country at the University of Maryland, suffered serious nerve damage and has undergone 33 surgeries to save his leg.

Groberg medically retired from the Army in July and is working for the Defense Department.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)