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.

11:28 A.M. EST

View Video of above Ceremony

Saturday, November 7, 2015

WATCH (Nov. 12th.) - Medal of Honor White House Presentation

Watch White House Replay here! 

WASHINGTON, DC – On November 12, 2015, President Barack Obama will award Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S. Army (Ret), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Captain Groberg will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on August 8, 2012.

Captain Groberg will be the tenth living recipient 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.

Watch White House Replay here! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Medal of Honor Recipient Adkins Speaks about his heroism in Vietnam

By Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland /

More than 150 graduates of the Noncommissioned Officer Candidate Course, 1976-1972, visited the installation Oct. 3-7 for their annual reunion.

Over the course of their visit, they observed an Airborne operational brief at Eubanks Field, toured McGinnis-Wickam Hall, met with Maneuver Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Metheny, toured the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade and Ranger Hall of Fame, Abrams Training Division, Bradley Training Division and the Armor Restoration Facility.

They wrapped up the reunion with a dinner at the National Infantry Museum Oct. 6, where retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins gave the keynote address. During his speech, Adkins shared memories of a Vietnam battle that would later earn him the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the U.S.

Adkins, who served in the Army for 22 years, received the Medal of Honor in 2014 for the heroism he showed as an intelligence sergeant with the Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, in a 38-hour battle against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces at Camp A Shau.

Adkins joked that he was a "REMF," a non-endearing term used by Soldiers on the frontline that referred to those who served in support roles. But that title didn't stick.

Adkins said he was on the campsite in A Shau Valley for more than 120 days before they were attacked, but he always felt that the North Vietnamese Soldiers were zeroing their weapons at him.

Adkins said one day two Chieu Hoi, supporters of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese who deserted, came to the camp.

"They came in and through the interrogation we determined that we were going to be attacked, but we didn't know that we were going to be attacked with a full division, with additional artillery," he said. "And they had set it where the battle would happen in bad weather."

Adkins said the weather was a detrimental factor in the attack because their only support was by air. Adkins said they had around 400 indigenous troops in the camp and one company decided to fight with the North Vietnamese during the early stages of the battle.

"So, I was fighting with the enemy. It became not only the troops assaulting us, but a mass assault," he said. Adkins said the enemy in the camp always chanted before mass assaults and he noticed that one of the North Vietnamese commanders was using a green star cluster as a signal for enemy infantry to attack.

"I said you know I might find one of those. And, I got around to my firing position and came up with a green star cluster and the next time they started firing heavy artillery and mortar fire I popped off a green star," he said. "The North Vietnamese artillery helped us out with that company."

Adkins was one of 17 Army Special Forces Soldiers in the camp. All 17 were wounded and five paid the ultimate price, he said.

Adkins said the Army flew in an aircraft from Thailand to pick up a wounded Special Forces Soldier, but broke in to bad weather and was shot down.

"They sent another one in to pick up the crew, and I was fortunate enough to put this (wounded) special forces sergeant on the aircraft and get him medical attention," he said.

When he got on the aircraft Adkins saw several of the indigenous personnel on the aircraft.

"There was nothing wrong with them. They just wanted a ride out," he said.

When Adkins told them to get off the aircraft, one of the troops pointed a gun towards him.

"Well, he made a big mistake," Adkins said. I had a rifle on me and the general who was wounded had a rifle on him. But (the indigenous soldier) stood up in the door of the helicopter and the North Vietnamese soldier shot him and killed him. It wasn't my day to go."

Adkins said eventually the enemy overran them with numbers.

"They decided they were going to eliminate me with grenades," he said. "The first few would either be short or long and they got one in to my firing position and one of the indigenous tried to play soccer with it. He lost a leg and I got a little shrapnel out of it."

Adkins said he was able to catch one of the grenades and throw it back where it came from.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor to Army Captain Groberg

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 14, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – On November 12, 2015, President Barack Obama will award Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S. Army (Ret), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Captain Groberg will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on August 8, 2012.

Captain Groberg will be the tenth living recipient 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.


Captain Florent A. “Flo” Groberg was born in Poissy, France on May 8, 1983. He became a naturalized U.S. Citizen on February 27, 2001, and graduated from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland in June 2001.

Captain Groberg attended the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and competed in Track and Cross Country. In May 2006, he graduated from UMD with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S.Army (ret)
Captain Groberg entered the Army in July 2008 and attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He received his commission as an Infantry Officer on December 4, 2008. After completing Infantry Officer Basic Course, Mechanized Leaders Course, U.S. Army Airborne and U.S. Army Ranger Schools, he was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, as a Platoon Leader.

Captain Groberg deployed to Afghanistan's Kunar Province in November 2009 and again in February 2012.  In between deployments, he served as a Platoon Leader, Infantry Company Executive Officer and a Brigade Personnel Security Detachment Commander at Fort Carson.

At the time of his August 8, 2012 combat engagement, Captain Groberg was serving as a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.  His heroic actions were performed in Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.  Injured during combat, he spent his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from August 2012 through May 2015 and was medically retired from Company B Warriors, Warrior Transition Battalion, on July 23, 2015.

Captain Groberg’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars; the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutists Badge, the Ranger Tab, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

COMMENTARY - The Future of Veterans Park in Stamford, CT - Part 2

The Stamford, CT business leaders have issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the renovation of Veterans Park (a link to the RFP is posted below). 

The RFP is clear that the renovation is driven by commercial interests of the Stamford Town Center and Downtown Special District (DDSD) and not to those who served in the armed forces of the United States. Cities and towns across America have placed their Veterans Parks prominently for all to see and to remember. It is sacred ground. The 12 page document barely mentions our Veterans. 

The estimate to renovate the Park is $7 million. Where is the money coming from? The City of Stamford has failed to replace the parking garage at the railroad station. The Stamford station is one the largest transportation hubs in the nation second only to Grand Central Station. 

Many believe the Memorials and statues are in jeopardy. 

It is time the Mayor, our local congressman and United States Senator get involved.

Link to Veterans Park RFP

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Memorial service for MOH recipient Marine First Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr

Memorial Service for  Marine First Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. in Knoxville, TN (

Marine First Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr., awarded the Medal of Honor after he was killed on Nov. 22, 1943 in the Battle of Tarawa was finally laid to rest after 72 years. Hundreds of  Knoxville, Tennessee residents gathered for a memorial service at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial in World's Fair Park on Saturday September 26, 2015.

Bonnyman’s remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Honolulu and were sent to Knoxville, Tenn., for burial. He was one of 36 Marines recovered earlier this year from Tarawa’s Betio Island in the Pacific Ocean.

A combat engineer, he received the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and the World War II Victory Medal posthumously for his actions during the strategically important assault on a Japanese bombproof shelter during the Battle of Tarawa.

“On the second day of the struggle, Bonnyman, determined to effect an opening in the enemy's strongly defended defense line, led his demolitions teams in an assault on the entrance to a huge bombproof shelter which contained approximately 150 Japanese soldiers. The enemy position was about forty yards forward of the Marine lines. Bonnyman advanced his team to the mouth of the position and killed many of the defenders. His team was forced to withdraw to replenish its supply of ammunition and grenades. Bonnyman again pressed his attack and gained the top of the structure, thereby flushing more than one hundred of its occupants into the open where they were shot down. When the Japanese fought back, the lieutenant stood at the forward edge of the position and killed several attackers before he fell mortally wounded. Betio Island was declared secured on the same day.

For his actions during the battle, Bonnyman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The medal was formally presented to his family by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in 1947. His 12-year-old daughter, Frances, accepted the medal on behalf of the Bonnyman family.

Suggested articles:

Remains of 36 Marines killed on Tarawa during World War II Found Medal of Honor Recipient Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman remembered at East Tennessee War Memorial

Memorial service honors local World War II Medal of Honor paratrooper Army Pvt. John Towle

Army Pvt. John Towle
Army Pvt. John Towle was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.

He joined the army in March 1943, becoming a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division and served in North Africa, Italy, and the European Theater of Operations. Pvt. Towle single-handedly defeated a tank-supported German infantry counter attack at Osterhout, Holland 21 Sept. 1944, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 19 years old.

Major General C. L. Scott presented the Medal to Towle's parents at a ceremony at Ft. Knox, Ky. in March 1945, and his body was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland 23 Jan. 1949; Major General James A. Gavin, wartime commander of the 82nd Airborne spoke at the internment.

Private Towle's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 21 September 1944, near Oosterhout, Holland. The rifle company in which Pvt. Towle served as rocket launcher gunner was occupying a defensive position in the west sector of the recently established Nijmegen bridgehead when a strong enemy force of approximately 100 infantry supported by 2 tanks and a half-track formed for a counterattack. With full knowledge of the disastrous consequences resulting not only to his company but to the entire bridgehead by an enemy breakthrough, Pvt. Towle immediately and without orders left his foxhole and moved 200 yards in the face of intense small-arms fire to a position on an exposed dike roadbed. From this precarious position Pvt. Towle fired his rocket launcher at and hit both tanks to his immediate front. Armored skirting on both tanks prevented penetration by the projectiles, but both vehicles withdrew slightly damaged. Still under intense fire and fully exposed to the enemy, Pvt. Towle then engaged a nearby house which 9 Germans had entered and were using as a strongpoint and with 1 round killed all 9. Hurriedly replenishing his supply of ammunition, Pvt. Towle, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of the enemy at any cost, then rushed approximately 125 yards through grazing enemy fire to an exposed position from which he could engage the enemy half-track with his rocket launcher. While in a kneeling position preparatory to firing on the enemy vehicle, Pvt. Towle was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. By his heroic tenacity, at the price of his life, Pvt. Towle saved the lives of many of his comrades and was directly instrumental in breaking up the enemy counterattack.

In an article by Brian Albrecht, Memorial service honors local World War II Medal of Honor paratrooper

On Saturday, at 10 a.m., that courage will again be remembered with a special memorial ceremony at Towle's grave in Calvary Cemetery, 10000 Miles Avenue, in Cleveland.

Towle's nephew, Tom Ryan, 58, of Euclid, said the event is part of the All Ohio Airborne Days, Oct. 1-3 in Cleveland, when airborne association members from across Ohio and other states will gather here. Towle is an honorary member of the local John Towle Medal of Honor Cleveland Chapter of 82nd Airborne Association.

The president of the national 82nd Airborne association will be among the guests at the ceremony that will include presentation of colors, laying a wreath at the Army paratrooper's grave, a rifle salute and taps.