Interview with MOH Recipient Captain (Ret) Flo Groberg: Pt. 1, “The Early Years”
by Mike Kelvington
Abbreviated biography of Medal of Honor recipient Florent “Flo” Groberg, US Army (Ret.):
Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg (US Army, Retired) was born in Poissy, France, May 8, 1983. He became a naturalized U.S. shortly before graduating from high school in 2001. He then attended the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), where he competed in varsity track and cross-country. In May 2006, Groberg graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice.
Groberg entered the US Army in July 2008 and received his commission as an infantry officer in 2008 through the Officer Candidate School program. After completing his training at Fort Benning, he was assigned as an infantry platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. During his second deployment to Afghanistan in February of 2012, Groberg, was assigned as the commander of the Brigade Personal Security Detail. On 8 August, 2012, his actions earned him the nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Severely wounded in the action for which he received the medal, Captain Groberg was medically retired from the Army in July of 2015. He currently resides in the National Capital Region developing the next chapter of his life story.
Captain Florent Ahmed Groberg received the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in Afghanistan in February of 2012. Flo took time out of his busy schedule during the 2015-2016 holiday season to answer a few questions and share some insight with the Havok Journal. Here’s what he shared:
HJ: Havok Journal
Flo: Captain Florent Groberg
HJ: You were born in France and came to the US when you were young. What was it like for you to come to America and go through the process of becoming a US citizen?
Flo: I didn’t know my biological father, my mother is French-Algerian, and when I was two years old she met my adopted father Larry, an American citizen from Gary, Indiana. He married my mom and over the years we would go to the US for vacations. He worked selling communications around the world. When I was about 11 years old, he decided it was time to hang it up from work and he moved the family back to the United States. Originally we settled in the Chicago area, and then later decided to move to the Washington DC area and Maryland, where I went to high school and college.
The thing is, I never understood growing up that I was an American, I know I was French, but I grew up with an American father and the culture. So moving to the US was like second nature. I didn’t speak English when I first came, but learned pretty quick through immersion. I went to American school starting in 8th grade and by 10th grade I was in honors English. The whole transition process is real easy. Growing up with an American dad, I know I signed a piece of paper when I was 17 years old stating that I was not going to be a naturalized American citizen, but I never really thought about it. It wasn’t really until after I received the Medal that people started hitting me up and asking me stuff like, “Hey how do you feel about being an immigrant?” Well I can’t really speak for all immigrants because everyone has their own special situation. I had no idea that I was an American growing up, and it took me a while to realize it.
HJ: After graduating from college you worked in the private sector for two years before joining the Army. What made you decide to go into the military? Did losing an uncle to terrorism in Algeria have any part in driving your decision to enlist?
Flo: Well I thought I was related towards the whole craziness and tyranny of terrorism personally because my uncle was killed by the GIA, which is a terrorist organization that was trying to take over the government in Algeria. He was in the Algerian Special Forces and was killed on the first day of Ramadan in 1996. So I knew at an early age that I wanted to become either FBI or serve in the military. And when my uncle was killed, it reinforced the whole military idea to serve. When I went to college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and that’s why I studied criminology.
But then 9/11 happened my senior year and that changed everything. That’s when I knew I wanted to join the armed forces, specifically the Army. I wanted to go out there and do my part because I knew we were going to be at war. I knew I had to have a conversation with my family, because in our family, when we start something, we finish it. And they told me, “Here you are, you need to finish your degree, and when you’re done with that you can go out there and serve your country. Don’t worry about it. In the mean time, we’re the United States, we’re going to step up, and others will go fight and hold the ground and do a lot of damage, then once you’re ready to go out there and make a difference, you can go do it. But in the mean time, you need to get your education because it’s going to help everybody in the long run.
So when I got out of school, I wanted to join, but unfortunately I had to wait because in order to become an officer, I had to renounce my French citizenship, and that process took me about 18 months. In the meantime, I had to make a paycheck.
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