A former Army captain who tackled a suicide bomber in Afghanistan was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House Thursday, in front of some of his fellow soldiers whose lives he saved.
Florent Groberg, 32, was badly injured in the August 2012 attack, which killed four people.
During his second deployment to Afghanistan's Kunar Province, Groberg was helping lead an escort for a meeting with a provincial governor when his unit encountered the bomber. Groberg, with assistance from another soldier in the security detail, Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, tackled the bomber to the ground, and his vest detonated.
"I’m blessed, and just grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve my country."
"On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best," President Obama said at the White House, adding, "that's the nature of courage."
U.S. military officials say the explosion caused a second, unseen bomb to detonate before it could be planted.
"It’s the greatest honor you can ever receive. And I’m blessed, and just grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve my country," Groberg said after the ceremony. He'd spent nearly three years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and endured more than 30 surgeries.
"He showed his guts, he showed his training, how he put it all on the line for his teammates. That's an American we can all be grateful for," President Obama said.
The president also recounted a moment during the captain's recovery, when the lead singer of the heavy metal band Korn, Jonathan Davis, appeared at his bedside. Groberg thought he was hallucinating, President Obama said, adding that Thursday's ceremony also was "all real."
The ceremony at the White House marked only the 10th time a living service member received the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven more were posthumously awarded the medal.
Groberg was born in Poissy, France. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001, the same year he graduated from high school in Maryland. He also competed in track and cross country at the University of Maryland before entering the Army in 2008.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald spoke about Groberg during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He said Groberg is emblematic of the sacrifices made by every generation of veterans.
"Captain Groberg acted in a manner that saved the lives of many of his comrades. Tragically, he could not save them all," McDonald said. "When he was informed last month that he would receive the Medal of Honor, he said, and I quote, `This medal belongs to them. It's my mission to tell everyone thank you for recognizing me, but this does not belong to me. It belongs to them. That's how I'm coping with it mentally.' "
The Associated Press contributed to this report.