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How a Medal of Honor recipient confronted a suicide bomber

Retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to stop a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Thirty-two-year-old Groberg is just the 10th living service member to receive the nation's highest military honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor today to retired Army Captain Florent Groberg for risking his life to stop a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

    The 32-year-old French-born soldier, who often goes by Flo, is just the 10th living service member to receive the nation's highest military honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    And so it was on an August day three years ago that Flo found himself leading a group of American and Afghan soldiers as they escorted their commanders to a meeting with local Afghans.

    It was a journey that the team had done many times before — a short walk on foot, including passage over a narrow bridge.

    Flo noticed something to his left — a man, dressed in dark clothing, walking backwards, just some 10 feet away. The man spun around and turned toward them, and that's when Flo sprinted toward him. He pushed him away from the formation, and as he did, he noticed an object under the man's clothing — a bomb.

    And at that moment, Flo did something extraordinary — he grabbed the bomber by his vest and kept pushing him away.

    One of Flo's comrades, Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, had joined in, too, and together they shoved the bomber again and again. And they pushed him so hard he fell to the ground onto his chest. And then the bomb detonated.

    Ball bearings, debris, dust exploded everywhere. Flo was thrown some 15 or 20 feet and was knocked unconscious. And moments later, he woke up in the middle of the road in shock. His eardrum was blown out. His leg was broken and bleeding badly.

    That blast by the bridge claimed four American heroes — four heroes Flo wants us to remember today.

    One of his mentors, a 24-year Army vet, Command Sergeant Major Kevin Griffin.

    A West Pointer who loved hockey and became a role model to cadets and troops because he always cared more about other people than himself, Major Tom Kennedy.

    A popular Air Force leader known for smiling with his whole face, Major David Gray.

    And, finally, a USAID foreign service officer, a man who moved to the United States from Egypt and reveled in everything American, Ragaei Abdelfattah.

    We honor Flo because his actions prevented an even greater catastrophe. You see, by pushing the bomber away from the formation, the explosion occurred farther from our forces, and on the ground instead of in the open air. And while Flo didn't know it at the time, that explosion also caused a second, unseen bomb to detonate before it was in place.

    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, because on his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That's the nature of courage, not being unafraid, but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion.

    He showed his guts. He showed his training, how he would put it all on the line for his teammates. That's an American we can all be grateful for.

    It's why we honor Captain Florent Groberg today.

  • MAN:

    The president of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Captain Florent A. Groberg, United States Army.

    (APPLAUSE)

    CAPT. FLORENT GROBERG (Ret.) Medal of Honor Recipient: This medal is the greatest honor you could ever receive.

    And I am blessed and just grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve my country. But this medal belongs to the true heroes, Command Sergeant Griffin, Major Gray, Major Kennedy, and Ragaei Abdelfattah, who made the ultimate sacrifice and didn't come home.

    It also belongs to their families, the true heroes who live with that day every day missing one of the key members of their families.

    So I'm honored. I'm overwhelmed, but I hope to become the right carrier for them and better myself as a human being for the rest of my life for them.

    Thank you.

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