Medal of Honor recipient's 'instincts' saved lives

Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Army Captain

Army Capt. Florent Groberg said his "instincts kicked in" when, while serving on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, he tackled a suicide bomber, saved the lives of other soldiers and sustained a serious leg injury in the process.

He might attribute those actions to a gut reaction, but the military considers it heroism. President Barack Obama presented Groberg with the Medal of Honor on Thursday, making him just the 10th living recipient of the country's highest military award.

"These actions were demanded among some of the most dreadful moments of war," the president said. "That's precisely why we honor heroes like 'Flo'. On his very worst day he managed to summon his very best."

Photos from the Medal of Honor ceremony:

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Florent Groberg receives Medal of Honor 11/12
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Medal of Honor recipient's 'instincts' saved lives
Retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg stands during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France, who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the medal for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) hugs retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg after presenting him with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France, who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the medal for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama presents Retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the highest award a US service member can receive for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama presents a Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Army Captain Florent A. Groberg (Ret.) during an East Room ceremony at the White House November 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Captain Groberg received the Medal of Honor for attempting to push a suicide bomber away from harming his patrol 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. He was severely injured from his courageous actions. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg after presenting him with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the highest award a US service member can receive for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama applauds after presenting retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France, who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the medal for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama hugs retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg after presenting him with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the highest award a US service member can receive for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama stands alongside retired US Army Captain Florent A. Groberg after presenting him with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 12, 2015. Groberg, a native of France who became a naturalized US citizen in 2001, received the highest award for a US service member for his actions on August 8, 2012 when he hurled himself at a suicide bomber in the Afghan city of Asadabad. He sustained serious injuries to his left leg while the blast killed 4 people. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg, shows his wrist braclet with the names of his fallen patrol soldiers killed on the day he survived, as he speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Groberg breathed deeply and blinked back tears as Obama placed the medal around the soldier's neck during the ceremony. He stood before the family members of those who served with him and ultimately died on that fateful day.

For Groberg, whose friends call him "Flo", heroism came with a price -- both physical and emotional.

Groberg's mission on Aug. 8, 2012, seemed clear cut: escort then-Col. James Mingus, who is now a brigadier general, as well as some high ranking Afghanistan leaders to attend a Kunar province security meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

He'd done these kinds of escort missions before, usually without a hitch.

But that day was different. Things felt "eerie" and "odd".

He and Sgt. 1st Class Brian Brink, who was also part of the escort mission, shared that sense of foreboding.

Their hunch proved right when several motorcycles whipped around a corner. The riders approached in the direction of the unit then got off the bikes and seemed to leave.

Then Groberg saw a man on his left walking backwards toward them. When the man turned around, Groberg noticed he was wearing a vest.

Groberg quickly assessed the situation and realized "he's the threat." He couldn't shoot the man because he didn't know the full scope of the situation, plus the man was armed.

"So I hit him," Groberg said adding that he pushed the man further away and grabbed the man by the vest. He and Sgt. Andrew Mahoney tackled him as well in an attempt to get him away from the rest of the detail.

Sometime during this skirmish, the man's vest detonated. Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray and Ragaei Abdelfattah, a U.S. Agency for International Development foreign service officer, were all killed in the blast.

Groberg considers that moment as "the worst day of my life". He still mourns their deaths and thinks often of their "courage and professionalism" on that day.

"Unfortunately we still lost four individuals," Groberg said. "If I could go back and do a little more, make sure all of our boys come home safely."

Gorberg was knocked unconscious by the explosion. He awoke with a badly shredded leg.

Brink helped get Groberg to a medic. His injuries would later require three years of recovery and more than 30 surgeries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

It was a difficult recovery for someone who once ran track at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md., and at the University of Maryland-College Park. He lives with chronic pain and a limp and has wondered whether it might not be better to have his leg amputated.

But coping with the events of that day would take much longer.

See photos of Groberg:

7 PHOTOS
Army Capt. Florent Groberg
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Medal of Honor recipient's 'instincts' saved lives
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on October 29, 2015 in front of the Hall of Heroes. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child. Groberg will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. The Hall of Heroes, located on the Pentagon's main concourse is dedicated to the more than 3,460 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military decoration. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg, shows his wrist braclet with the names of his fallen patrol soldiers killed on the day he survived, as he speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child, and will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Captain Florent Groberg speaks to reporters at the Pentagon on October 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Groberg on November 12, 2015 will receive the Medal of Honor for 'conspicuous gallantry' after he jumped on a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. Groberg was born in France and moved to the US as a child. Groberg will become the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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He wears the names of the fallen on a bracelet and his has vowed to live his life not just for himself, "but for my brothers.

"I carry them in my heart and in my actions and I try to do the best to honor their lives and their families."

Related: See a history of Medal of Honor recipients:

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Medal of Honor recipients
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Medal of Honor recipient's 'instincts' saved lives
In an undated  photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society Alonzo Cushing, left, poses with, from left, Capt. L. Kipp; Major Clark; Lt. Col. Joseph Taylor; Major General E.V. Sumner; Capt. Samuel Sumner; Surgeon Hammond; Lt. Col. Lawrence.  Cushing is expected to get the nation's highest military decoration this summer _ the Medal of Honor _ nearly 150 years after he died at the battle of Gettysburg.   (AP Photo/Wisconsin Historical Society)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama (4th L) and Helen Loring Ensign (3rd L) of Palm Desert, California, who receives the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on behalf of Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, pose for pictures with (L-R) Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Army Secretary John McHugh, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House November 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama presented the award posthumously to Lieutenant Cushing who served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Helen Loring Ensign (L) of Palm Desert, California, who recevies the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on behalf of Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, listen to recitation of Cushing's heroic story during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House November 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama presented the award posthumously to Lieutenant Cushing who served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - APRIL 04: Eleven year old David Smith holds his father's, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, Medal of Honor after U.S. President George W. Bush presented him with it on April 4, 2005 at the White House in Washington, DC This is only the third Medal of Honor given for actions since the Vietnam War, and the first from the Iraq war. Smith, who was killed in action, is credited with protecting the lives of scores of lightly armed American soldiers who were beyond his position in the battle, on April 4, 2003, near the gates of Baghdad International Airport. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Washington, UNITED STATES: Joe Galloway speaks with people before US President George W Bush presented retired Army Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall with the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House 26 February 2007 in Washington, DC. Lt. Col. Crandall was honored for his actions during the Vietnam War on 14 November 1965 when he landed his unarmed helicopter 22 times to resupply and evacuate members of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the la Drang Valley which Galloway wrote about in 'We Were Soldiers Once...And Young'. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
N364172 01: President Clinton places the Medal of Honor on Alfred Rascon in Washington, DC February 8, 2000. After more than 30 years, Rascon, of Laurel, Md., is finally receiving the nation's highest military honor for risking his own life to save three others during the Vietnam War. (Photo by Mark Wilson)
President Bill Clinton escorts Robert ''Doc'' Ingram, after awarding him the Congressional Medal of Honor July 10, 1998 for bravery in combat during the Vietnam War. Ingram, of Jacksonville, Fl, was a 21-year-old Navy hospital corpsman when his acts of heroism on a Vietnam battlefield left him tagged for dead. (photo by Richard Ellis)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama (4th L) and Helen Loring Ensign (3rd L) of Palm Desert, California, who receives the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on behalf of Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, pose for pictures with (L-R) Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Army Secretary John McHugh, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House November 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama presented the award posthumously to Lieutenant Cushing who served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Helen Loring Ensign (L) of Palm Desert, California, who recevies the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on behalf of Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, listen to recitation of Cushing's heroic story during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House November 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama presented the award posthumously to Lieutenant Cushing who served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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