Thursday, February 4, 2016

President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor to U.S. Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers


The White House                                            
Office of the Press Secretary                                               Watch LIVE here on February 29, 2016     
For Immediate Release                                                                     (time to be announced)
February 02, 2016
President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor


WASHINGTON, DC – On February 29, 2016, President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, U.S. Navy.  Senior Chief Byers will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan on December 8-9, 2012.

Senior Chief Byers will be the eleventh living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.  He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND:

Senior Chief Byers was born in Toledo, Ohio on August 4, 1979.  He graduated from Otesgo High School in Tontogany, Ohio in June 1997.

Senior Chief Byers currently holds a National Paramedics License, and will graduate from Norwich University with a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis in early 2016.

Senior Chief Byers entered the Navy in September 1998, attending boot camp and Hospital Corpsman School at Great Lakes, Illinois.  He served at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and then with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  In 2002, he attended the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course, graduating from Class 242, and completed the Special Operations Combat Medic course in 2003.  Senior Chief Byers has been assigned to various east coast SEAL teams, and completed eight overseas deployments with seven combat tours.

Senior Chief Byers’ awards and decorations include five awards of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V device, two awards of the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor device, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat V device, two additional awards of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two awards of the Combat Action Ribbon, three Presidential Unit Citations, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, two Navy Unit Commendations, and five Good Conduct Medals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Medal of Honor Recipient Michael J. Fitzmaurice Honored with Bronze Statue


Hot Springs, SD The Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home received its newest addition today.

Darwin Wolf, Sculptor  
Bronze Statue of Michael J.  Fitzmaurice, Hero of  Vietnam War
The lobby now boasts a statue honoring the man for whom the home is named.

Randall Meyers, Fitzmaurice's friend, said, "He's the most unassuming person you will ever meet. He always shuns the spotlight. He doesn't want the notoriety."

But the veterans here still shed a deserving light on Michael J. Fitzmaurice - who in their eyes is a hero.

The soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.

Meyers said, "And with that medal comes a lot of military protocol. I mean officers salute him."

Fitzmaurice shielded his fellow comrades from a deadly explosive - with just his body and flak vest to protect him.

He suffered serious injuries and was partially blinded by the blast, but it didn't stop the North Dakota native from continuing a brave fight - and he lived to tell the tale.

Darwin Wolf, the sculptor, said, "He followed what he was told and trained to do. So he says he just did his job."

What was once a blank slab of bronze, is now a life-size statue of Fitmaurice's legacy, which will forever live on at the state veterans home.

Meyers said, "I just couldn't think of anything nicer or more appropriate than a lasting legacy like this bronze."

Darwin Wolf began the project nearly a year ago in Sioux Falls.

Wolf said, "One of the greatest parts of being able to do the work that I do - is the people that I wind up meeting along the way. And that's never been more true than with this project."

Wolf was one of three sculptors recommended for the project - and was honored to be chosen to craft a living Medal of Honor winner.

Wolf said, "His heroism was a lot like him - kind of quiet. And he was just a kid from the Dakotas."

Fitzmaurice now lives in Sioux Falls.

The state veterans home in Hot Springs recently opened this new 133 thousand square foot building.

It houses about 100 veterans who will forever be greeted by a hero at the entrance.

Originally Broadcast on KEVN Black Hills FOX, Hot Springs, SD


Medal of Honor Citation 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life

above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice, 3d Platoon, Troop D, distinguished himself at Khe Sanh. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and 3 fellow soldiers were occupying a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the area. At the onset of the attack Sp4c. Fitzmaurice observed 3 explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade. While in search of another weapon, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice's extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. These acts of heroism go above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and the U.S. Army.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Navy to name ship after Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient


By Matthew M. Burke
Stars and Stripes
Published: January 6, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Navy is going to name a ship after the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, a victory that proved to be a turning point in World War II.

The Navy will officially announce its plans to honor Hershel “Woody” Williams at a Jan. 14 ceremony in Charleston, W. Va., according to West Virginia news station WSAZ.

Williams, 91, from the state’s Cabell County, was presented with the valor award for clearing a series of Japanese pill boxes with a flamethrower under heavy fire during the bloody 1945 battle that claimed the lives of more than 6,800 U.S. servicemembers and wounded another 19,000. He then refused evacuation despite shrapnel wounds. The battle was immortalized in the iconic “flag-raising” photo by The Associated Press’ Joe Rosenthal.







Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Williams salutes as the national anthem is sung before the Military Bowl football game in Annapolis, Md., Dec. 28, 2015.

Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes



The move to name a ship after Williams picked up steam in February when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., submitted a request to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The announcement was first made in October; however, few details were available.

“I am thrilled the U.S. Navy will name a Navy ship after World War II Medal of Honor recipient and my dear friend, Woody Williams,” Manchin said in a statement in October. “Naming a ship after Woody is a lifelong tribute to Woody’s brave actions and his dedication to public service.”

In recent years, Williams has taken up championing veterans issues through his nonprofit, The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. He returned to Iwo Jima — now called Iwo To — in March for the battle’s 70th anniversary ceremony. He told Stars and Stripes he remembered the bullets bouncing off the body of his flame thrower, which was strapped to his back, as he sought cover from withering Japanese fire.

“If we had never put Old Glory on Mount Suribachi, it would have been just another campaign,” Williams told Stars and Stripes. “The flag is what energized everything that took place. Our morale was dragging, we had lost so many guys. When that flag when up on the 23rd [of February], we got a new spirit. We are going to win this thing.”

burke.matt@stripes.com


Medal of Honor Citation    Hershel W. Williams   February 1945
                                                                             
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

$25 MILLION AWARDED TO PORT ST. LUCIE. FLORIDA FOR VETERANS NURSING HOME NAMED AFTER MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT ARDIE R. COPAS HERO OF VIETNAM WAR


Washington, DC,  December 10, 2015, The Department of Veterans affairs announced today they have released $25 million to pay for a Veterans Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The home will be named for Medal of Honor recipient  Ardie R. Copas, who was killed in action in Cambodia, on May 12, 1970.  He was born in Fort Pierce, Florida

According to Steve Murray, Director of Communications of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, “the home would be the first state veterans home to offer all private rooms. Spouses including those of the same sex, will be allowed to share rooms as long as both are military veterans and need services.”

President Obama, on March 18, 2014, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, at a ceremony at the White House

Medal of Honor Citation SPECIALIST FOURTH CLASS ARDIE R. COPAS




COPAS' DAUGHTER, SHYRELL JEAN COPAS , 
RECEIVES THE MEDAL OF HONOR 
FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA
ON MARCH 18, 2014, AT THE WHITE HOUSE



Specialist Four Ardie R. Copas distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Machinegunner in Company C, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia on May 12, 1970. That morning, Specialist Four Copas' company was suddenly attacked by a large hostile force firing recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons. As Specialist Four Copas began returning fire, his armored car was struck by an enemy recoilless round, knocking him to the ground and injuring four American Soldiers beside the vehicle. Ignoring his own wounds, Specialist Four Copas quickly remounted the burning vehicle and commenced firing his machinegun at the belligerents. Braving the hostile fire directed at him and the possible detonation of the mortar rounds inside the track, Specialist Four Copas maintained a heavy volume of suppressive fire on the foe while the wounded Americans were safely evacuated. Undaunted, Specialist Four Copas continued to place devastating volleys of fire upon the adversary until he was mortally wounded when another enemy round hit his vehicle. Specialist Four Copas' daring action resulted in the safe evacuation of his comrades. Specialist Four Copas' extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

TIBOR RUBIN, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT HERO OF THE KOREAN WAR DIES


Tibor Rubin  was a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States in 1948 and received the Medal of Honor for his valorous actions during the Korean War as a U.S. Infantry soldier and POW from President George W. Bush on September 23, 2005, 55 years later. Rubin WAS a resident of Garden Grove, California.

CORPORAL TIBOR RUBIN
photo courtesy Medal of Honor Society
Rubin was repeatedly nominated for various military decorations, but was overlooked because of antisemitism by a superior. Fellow soldiers who filed affidavits supporting Rubin's nomination for the Medal of Honor said that Rubin's sergeant "was an anti-Semite who gave Rubin dangerous assignments in hopes of getting him killed".

Rubin was born in Pásztó, a Hungarian town with a Jewish population of 120 families, the son of a shoemaker and one of six children. At age 13, he was transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and liberated two years later by American combat troops. Both his parents and his two sisters perished in the Holocaust.

Rubin came to the United States in 1948, settled in New York and worked first as a shoemaker. He then apprenticed as a butcher at Michael Bela Wilhelm's Hungarian butcher shop on Third Avenue in the Yorkville neighborhood for about a year.

In 1949, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. He failed the English language test, but tried again in 1950 and passed with some judicious help from two fellow test-takers.

By July 1950, Private First Class Rubin found himself fighting in South Korea with I Company, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division. According to lengthy affidavits submitted by nearly a dozen men who served with Rubin in South and North Korea, mostly self-described "country boys" from the South and Midwest, an antisemitic army sergeant named Arthur Peyton consistently "volunteered" Rubin for the most dangerous patrols and missions.

During one mission, according to the testimonies of his comrades, Rubin secured a needed route of retreat for his rifle company by single-handedly defending a hill for 24 hours against waves of North Korean soldiers. For this and other acts of bravery, Rubin was recommended four times for the Medal of Honor by two of his commanding officers. Both of these officers were killed in action shortly afterwards, but not before ordering Rubin's sergeant to begin the necessary paperwork recommending Rubin for the Medal of Honor. Some of Rubin’s fellow GIs were present and witnessed when the order was issued to the sergeant, and all are convinced that the sergeant deliberately ignored the orders. "I really believe, in my heart, that [the sergeant] would have jeopardized his own safety rather than assist in any way whatsoever in the awarding of the Medal of Honor to a person of Jewish descent", wrote Corporal Harold Speakman in a notarized affidavit.

Toward the end of October 1950, massive Chinese troop concentrations had crossed the border into North Korea and were attacking the unprepared American troops now trapped way inside North Korea. Most of Rubin's regiment had been killed or captured. Rubin, severely wounded, was captured and spent the next 30 months in a prisoner of war camp.

Faced with constant hunger, filth, and disease, most of the GIs simply gave up. "No one wanted to help anyone. Everybody was for himself", wrote Leo A. Cormier Jr., a former sergeant and POW. The exception was Rubin. Almost every evening, Rubin would sneak out of the prison camp to steal food from the Chinese and North Korean supply depots, knowing that he would be shot if caught. "He shared the food evenly among the GIs," Cormier wrote. He also took care of us, nursed us, carried us to the latrine..., he did many good deeds, which he told us were mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition... he was a very religious Jew and helping his fellow men was the most important thing to him". The survivors of the prison war camp credited Rubin with keeping them alive and saving at least 40 American soldiers.

Rubin refused his captors' repeated offers of repatriation to Hungary, by then behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1993, a study was commissioned by the United States Army to investigate racial discrimination in the awarding of medals. In 2001, after considering the case of Leonard M. Kravitz, Congress directed the military to further review certain cases. The ensuing investigation showed that Rubin had been the subject of discrimination due to his religion and should have received the Medal of Honor.

In 2005, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Rubin in a ceremony at the White House, for his actions in 1950 during the Korean War.

Source: Wikipedia


Medal of Honor Citation    Corporal Tibor Rubin

Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Medal of Honor Recipient George T. Sakato Passes Away at 94


George T. Sakato
Photo courtesy Medal of Honor Society

Medal of Honor Citation

Private George T. Sakato distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 29 October 1944, on hill 617 in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France. After his platoon had virtually destroyed two enemy defense lines, during which he personally killed five enemy soldiers and captured four, his unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Disregarding the enemy fire, Private Sakato made a one-man rush that encouraged his platoon to charge and destroy the enemy strongpoint. While his platoon was reorganizing, he proved to be the inspiration of his squad in halting a counter-attack on the left flank during which his squad leader was killed. Taking charge of the squad, he continued his relentless tactics, using an enemy rifle and P-38 pistol to stop an organized enemy attack. During this entire action, he killed 12 and wounded two, personally captured four and assisted his platoon in taking 34 prisoners. By continuously ignoring enemy fire, and by his gallant courage and fighting spirit, he turned impending defeat into victory and helped his platoon complete its mission. Private Sakato's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

PRNewswire-USNewswire (Link to Article)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Remarks by the President in Medal of Honor Presentation to Captain Florent Groberg, United States Army



The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 12, 2015

East Room
11:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, and welcome to the White House.  A little more than three years ago, as Captain Florent Groberg was recovering from his wounds as a consequence of the actions that we honor today, he woke up on a hospital bed, in a little bit of a haze.  He wasn’t sure, but he thought he was in Germany, and someone was at his bedside talking to him.  He thought it was the lead singer from the heavy metal band Korn.  (Laughter.)  Flo thought, “What’s going on?  Am I hallucinating?”  But he wasn’t.  It was all real.

And so today, Flo, I want to assure you, you are not hallucinating.  You are actually in the White House.  Those cameras are on.  I am not the lead singer from Korn.  (Laughter.)  We are here to award you our nation’s highest military honor -- distinction, the Medal of Honor.

Now, Flo and I have actually met before.  Three years ago, I was on one of my regular visits to Walter Reed to spend some time with our wounded warriors -- and Flo was one of them.  We talked.  It turns out he liked the Chicago Bears -- so I liked him right away.  (Laughter.)  And I had a chance to meet his parents who could not be more gracious and charming, and you get a sense of where Flo gets his character from.  It is wonderful to see both of you again.

I also want to welcome Flo’s girlfriend Carsen, who apparently, Flo tells me, he had to help paint an apartment with just the other day.  So there’s some honeydew lists going on.  (Laughter.)  His many friends, fellow soldiers and family, all of our distinguished guests.  A day after Veterans Day, we honor this American veteran, whose story -- like so many of our vets and wounded warriors -- speaks not only of gallantry on the battlefield, but resilience here at home.

As a teenager just up the road in Bethesda, Flo discovered he had an incredible gift -- he could run.  Fast.  Half-mile, mile, two mile -- he’d leave his competition in the dust.  He was among the best in the state.  And he went on to run track and cross country at the University of Maryland.

Flo’s college coach called him “the consummate teammate.”  As good as he was in individual events, somehow he always found a little extra something when he was running on a relay, with a team.  Distance running is really all about guts -- and as one teammate said, Flo could “suffer a little more than everyone else could.”  So day after day, month after month, he pushed himself to his limit.  He knew that every long run, every sprint, every interval could help shave off a second or two off his times.  And as he’d find out later, a few seconds can make all the difference.

Training.  Guts.  Teamwork.  What made Flo a great runner also made him a great soldier.  In the Army, Flo again took his training seriously -- hitting the books in the classroom, paying attention to every detail in field exercises -- because he knew that he had to be prepared for any scenario.  He deployed to Afghanistan twice; first as a platoon leader, and then a couple of years later when he was hand-picked to head up a security detail.  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.

At first, they passed pedestrians, a few cars and bicycles, even some children.  But then they began to approach the bridge, and a pair of motorcycles sped toward them from the other side.  The Afghan troops shouted at the bikers to stop -- and they did, ditching their bikes in the middle of the bridge and running away.

And that’s when 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.  The motorcycles had been a diversion.

And at that moment, Flo did something extraordinary -- he grabbed the bomber by his vest and kept pushing him away.  And all those years of training on the track, in the classroom, out in the field -- all of it came together.  In those few seconds, he had the instincts and the courage to do what was needed.  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.  Still, he realized that if the enemy launched a secondary attack, he’d be a sitting duck.  When a comrade found him in the smoke, Flo had his pistol out, dragging his wounded body from the road.

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 who always found time for Flo and any other soldier who wanted to talk -- 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,” someone who always seemed to run into a friend wherever he went -- Major David Gray.  And finally, a USAID foreign service officer who had just volunteered for a second tour in Afghanistan; a man who moved to the United States from Egypt and reveled in everything American, whether it was Disneyland or chain restaurants or roadside pie -- Ragaei Abdelfatah.

These four men believed in America.  They dedicated their lives to our country.  They died serving it.  Their families -- loving wives and children, parents and siblings -- bear that sacrifice most of all.  So while Ragaei’s family could not be with us today, I’d ask three Gold Star families to please stand and accept our deepest thanks.  (Applause.)  

Today, 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.  Had both bombs gone off as planned, who knows how many could have been killed.

Those are the lives Flo helped to save.  And we are honored that many of them are here today.  Brigadier General James Mingus.  Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, who was awarded a Silver Star for joining Flo in confronting the attacker.  Sergeant First Class Brian Brink, who was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for pulling Flo from the road.  Specialist Daniel Balderrama, the medic who helped to save Flo’s leg.  Private First Class Benjamin Secor and Sergeant Eric Ochart, who also served with distinction on that day.  Gentlemen, I’d ask you to please stand and accept the thanks of a grateful nation, as well.  (Applause.)

At Walter Reed, Flo began his next mission -- the mission to recover.  He suffered significant nerve damage, and almost half of the calf muscle in his left leg had been blown off.  So the leg that had powered him around that track, the leg that moved so swiftly to counter the bomber -- that leg had been through hell and back.  Thanks to 33 surgeries and some of the finest medical treatment a person can ask for, Flo kept that leg.  He’s not running, but he’s doing a lot of CrossFit.  I would not challenge him to CrossFit.  (Laughter.)  He’s putting some hurt on some rowing machines and some stair climbers.  I think it is fair to say he is fit.

Today, Flo is medically retired.  But like so many of his fellow veterans of our 9/11 Generation, Flo continues to serve.  As I said yesterday at Arlington, that’s what our veterans do -- they are incredibly highly skilled, dynamic leaders always looking to write that next chapter of service to America.  For Flo, that means a civilian job with the Department of Defense to help take care of our troops and keep our military strong.

And every day that he is serving, he will be wearing a bracelet on his wrist -- as he is today -- a bracelet that bears the names of his brothers in arms who gave their lives that day.  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 -- that for all the valor we celebrate, and all the courage that inspires us, these actions were demanded amid some of the most dreadful moments of war.

That’s precisely why we honor heroes like Flo -- 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.

May God bless all who serve and all who have given their lives to our country.  We are free because of them.  May God bless their families and may God continue to bless the United States of America with heroes such as these.  

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

Captain Florent A. Groberg distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a personal security detachment commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on August 8, 2012.

On that day, Captain Groberg was leading a dismounted movement consisting of several senior leaders to include two brigade commanders, two battalion commanders, two command sergeants major, and an Afghanistan National Army brigade commander.

As they approached the provincial governor’s compound, Captain Groberg observed an individual walking close to the formation.  While the individual made an abrupt turn towards the formation, he noticed an abnormal bulge underneath the individual’s clothing.  Selflessly placing himself in front of one of the brigade commanders, Captain Groberg rushed forward using his body to push the suspect away from the formation.  Simultaneously, he ordered another member of the security detail to assist with removing the suspect.  At this time, Captain Groberg confirmed the bulge was a suicide vest.  And with complete disregard for this life, Captain Groberg, again, with the assistance of the other member of the security detail, physically pushed the suicide bomber away from the formation.

Upon falling, the suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside of the perimeter of the formation, killing four members of the formation and wounding numerous others.  The blast from the first suicide bomb caused the suicide vest of a previously unnoticed second suicide bomber to detonate prematurely with minimal impact on the formation.

Captain Groberg’s immediate actions to push the first suicide bomber away from the formation significantly minimized the impact of the coordinated suicide bombers’ attack on the formation, saving the lives of his comrades and several senior leaders.

Captain Groberg’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of his life on keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division, and the United States Army.  (Applause.)

[The benediction is offered.]

THE PRESIDENT:  That concludes the formal portion of this ceremony.  I need to take some pictures with the outstanding team members, as well as the Gold Start families who are here today, as Flo reminds us this medal, in his words, honors them as much as any honors that are bestowed upon him.  And on Veterans Day Week, that is particularly appropriate.  

I want to thank all of our servicemembers who are here today, all who could not attend.  And I hope you enjoy an outstanding reception.  I hear the food is pretty good here.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  Give Captain Groberg a big round of applause again.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
11:28 A.M. EST

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