FORT CARSON (AP) – Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg’s last sprint may have been his fastest, ever.
“It lasted eight seconds,” the 32-year-old former Fort Carson soldier said of the run that led him to the Medal of Honor.
On Aug. 8, 2012, Groberg ran toward a suicide bomber who was heading for a formation of American and Afghan leaders he was protecting as they walked through Assadabad, Afghanistan.
The Army described Groberg’s last foot race: “When the individual made an abrupt turn toward the formation, Groberg rushed the suspect and shoved him away from the patrol.”Some people aren’t surprised about what Groberg did with his last few running strides.
Coach Tom Martin had seen Groberg run that way on cross country courses for Walter Johnson High School in Maryland.
Distance runners like Groberg, he said, are funny people. They must balance peace and chaos at once in their brains to run through pain and run fast enough to win. What made Groberg such a special runner is that he never ran for himself.
Teammates meant more than the fiery pain that burned in his leg muscles and the needles he felt in his lungs as he pounded out mile after mile.
“When you hit that wall, you have other people depending on you to get over it,” said Martin, who has coached runners since the 1990s. “Kids find out they have a lot more in them than they think.”
Groberg’s sprint in Assadabad drove him into history as an American hero. President Barack Obama will award Groberg the nation’s highest honor for valor in a White House ceremony Thursday. The Army says those few steps saved lives and showed unrivaled courage.
His swift action to tackle a suicide bomber left Groberg with a shredded left calf muscle and damaged nerves. It’s unlikely he’ll run again, although he can walk and has ongoing physical therapy.
On Aug. 8, 2012, leading a six-member team on what seemed like a routine security mission, Groberg spotted a bomber.
“I saw a bad guy, thought he was a threat, and I wanted to eliminate the threat away from the boss,” he said.
Groberg ran to grab the bomber and used his powerful legs to push him away from Fort Carson’s Brig. Gen. James Mingus and the others. Sgt. Andrew Mahoney pitched in, and the pair wrestled the bomber to the ground.
“He landed on my feet,” Groberg said. “He detonated.”
The blast drove shrapnel into Groberg’s legs and caused another suicide bomber aiming for the patrol to trigger his vest.
Four men died: Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Georgia; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, New York; Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 45, of Laramie, Wyoming; and State Department worker Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, of Annapolis, Maryland.
Fort Carson’s Brig. Gen. James Mingus said Groberg’s run saved many more.
“He saved not just me, but a whole bunch of other folks that day,” Mingus said.