stack los angeles welcomes captain florent groberg
“Whenever I want to figure out what’s going on in my life, apparently I have a Wikipedia page,” started Captain Florent Groberg, the latest awardee of the Medal of Honor, at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Alumni Center for an open Q&A.
Thus began retired Army Captain Florent Groberg, the latest awardee of the Medal of Honor, on Friday night in UCLA’s Alumni Center for an open Q&A that Stack-Up was able to attend thanks to an invitation by Los Angeles branch of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). CPT Groberg was talking about the week he just had having received the medal and then learning about the attacks in France, his home country. It was just one of many times that night he showed complete humility. Listening to his answers to the crowd’s questions, you could tell he was just like anyone else in that room but was put in a difficult situation when the training him and his men received took over and he ran on instincts
CPT Groberg received the medal for his actions in August of 2012, when he grabbed a suicide bomber approaching his team of VIPs and continued to push the attacker outside of the intended kill zone. The attacker detonated his vest, but “Flo,” as he was often referred to by President Obama and in introductions at the event, was saved by his team’s medic and a number of doctors and nurses through multiple surgeries. Though he was saved, four of his teammates were not. Command Sergeant Major Kevin J. Griffin, Major Thomas E. Kennedy, Air Force Major Walter Gray, and Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah were all killed during that attack. The number would have been much higher were it not for Flo’s actions.
He touched on that day in 2012 as being him and his men’s worst day that brought out their very best. “The hardest part (after the attacks to talk about) I was so scared that the families would not accept me. You know, I was so scared that they would be angry at me that I was not able bring back their loved ones.” Overcoming that fear helped him realize he needed to embrace his second chance at life and dedicate himself to those four mens’ families’ lives as well as all Gold Star families. He was able to find a way to tackle his demons and push forward. He also wanted to move the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder away from being a disorder. He was very specific when he mentioned his determination from the VA to refer to it as PTS completely leaving off the disorder that many associate with the condition and pointed out that anyone, anywhere, anytime can be inflicted with PTS.
All the while, CPT Groberg emphasized that he was now dedicated to the cause of veterans’ organizations that give them opportunities to succeed, not free hand outs. Members from IAVA asked what they could do better for the veteran community, and CPT Groberg just kept saying how “They need a chance. These kids, believe it or not, you know, are incredible. They know what discipline is, they know what being punctual is”¦. They have that foundation that is necessary in a workforce or business organization to be successful”¦ I challenge (veteran organizations) to go out there”¦ and help that 19, 20, 21 year old guy. If you don’t give him a job, guide him towards education.” In the end, what matters is creating the opportunities for veterans to get ahead by reintegrating them to a work place, a learning institution, or in Stack-Up’s case, a community of brother and sisterhood outside of the military.
One of the last questions of the night came from Alan, an Iraqi veteran who came home to a community he felt separated from, attended a university that didn’t know how to interact with him, and ended up falling into homelessness and alcoholism. He had begun to turn his life around and asked what he would tell to other veterans who were struggling with those issues right now. “The first thing I’d do, I’d give him my hand. And be like, ”˜let’s get you up, brother’”¦ I didn’t have to be next to you in Iraq, I didn’t have to be”¦ every single person that ever wore the uniform that fought for this country”¦ I’d give you hand, pick you up, ”˜cause you don’t deserve to be down, you’ve done way too much for this country to ever be down. After that, I’m going to put my arm around you, but not for too long, because we’ve got to figure a way out. I respect you, man. You right there. You came, in front of all these people, and just told your story in less than ten seconds. From there, I heard a man that was as down as it gets. I mean, you were as low as it gets, and you picked yourself up. Because you said, ”˜I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself. Let’s figure out a solution.’ Now it is my turn, and everybody else’s turn, to go out there and support you. That’s what our vets need. They need support, and there are organizations out there that are doing everything that they can to support us.”
(Courtesy Steven Padilla, IAVA)
His statement was true. Stack-Up was able to reach out to him, and members from IAVA were able to get him information about their Rapid Response Referral Program (a program where veterans are assigned a case manager to help them through the various processes of getting a permanent home, employment or educational opportunities, legal or financial issues, and other services)
It was a great night seeing the military community come together to see one man, but that man turned it around as a call for everyone to help give veterans the opportunities they need and to tell the story of four men and their families who didn’t get to have a reunion.
Jeff Park, Steven Padilla, and Jessica Shearer from IAVA, CPT Groberg, and Alan
(Courtesy Steven Padilla, IAVA)
CPT Groberg, and Bryan Parent from Stack-Up.