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Medal of Honor Recipient Groberg Returns to Fort Carson

President Obama bestows the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor to retired Army captain Florent Groberg during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama bestows the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor to retired Army captain Florent Groberg during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Florent "Flo" Groberg stood facing his Medal of Honor plaque and took a deep breath.

On Monday, Fort Carson honored its 25th Medal of Honor recipient by placing a plaque bearing the retired captain's photo and story on a wall, joining the photos of recipients from both world wars, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Then Groberg did an about-face to face an audience of hundreds who gathered to see him.

He struggled to do it, stalling for a few seconds with his back still turned. But after taking the deep breath, he managed it.

"It's hard for me to do an about-face with my leg," he explained to the crowd moments later. "I can't feel it, so it's difficult."

More than a month after receiving his Medal of Honor at the White House, Groberg returned to Fort Carson for the first time in nearly three years to be added to the post's Wall of Heroes

Groberg walked with a slight limp as he waved and smiled at some familiar faces in the crowd, but otherwise endured the half-hour ceremony stoically.

"Nobody likes ceremonies," he said during a short news conference afterward. "I think you feel a little uncomfortable."

Groberg's life has changed significantly since Aug. 8, 2012, when he tackled a suicide bomber while leading a security detail in Afghanistan's Kunar Province. Once an avid runner and standout athlete, Groberg planned to have a career in the Army -- he had drawn up his five- and 10-year plans, he said Monday.

But the actions that earned him the Medal of Honor on Nov. 11 mangled his left leg. Groberg lost most of his calf muscle and endured 33 surgeries to save the leg.

Groberg is medically retired from the Army and works a civilian job at the Pentagon. He lives with the memory of friends killed that August day but hopes to use the attention he has gained from earning the medal to help him make a difference.

Despite his half-joking comments that the Army "might be wrong with this one," Groberg's legacy as a Medal of Honor recipient is something he's prepared to use for good.

"When one door closes another one opens," he said. "I want to be more than a guy with a medal."

Groberg's agenda includes tackling veterans' issues, especially education opportunities, and decreasing the number of homeless veterans.

"I think it's way too high," he said.

While Groberg forges ahead with his life, the demons from his past are never far from him. He seems haunted by the deaths of Command Sgt. Major Kevin Griffin, the 4th Brigade's top enlisted soldier, Maj. Thomas Kennedy and Maj. Walter Gray, an Air Force officer who helped coordinate air strikes, all of whom died in the 2012 suicide bombing.

"When you wake up in the morning, you think about the guys you lost," Groberg said. "You go to bed and think about the guys you lost."

Griffin's death tore at Groberg, who considered him a second father, Groberg's mother Klara told The Gazette in November. To cope, Groberg said he has relied on a loving network of the families of the men lost. He talks to them weekly and plans to mail them Christmas presents soon, he said.

And before he leaves Colorado on Tuesday, Groberg plans to stop by and see Griffin, who is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. In Groberg's eyes, he shares that medal with the men he lost.

"There is no possible way that Medal of Honor can belong to one individual," he said.

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