U.S. Army Captain Florent Groberg didn't know for sure that the man he'd tackled off an Afghanistan road was wearing a suicide vest. Moments later, it detonated.
Four men – three fellow soldiers and one USAID Foreign Service Officer – were killed in the blast that day in August 2012. Groberg severely injured his leg, blew his eardrum and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. But his quick action saved the lives of many others who he was responsible for protecting. For that, in late 2015 Groberg became the 10th living service member from Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor.
When reflecting on the nation's highest award for military valor, Groberg emphasizes that it isn't about him, instead "It's about the four individuals who we lost, it's about their families and it's about all true heroes who have sacrificed everything for their country. [The Medal of Honor] represents them."
This week Groberg spoke with more than 1,500 employees from U.S. Bank on the company's annual Veterans Day Call, hosted by CEO Richard Davis and President Andy Cecere, honoring veteran and active-duty military employees. On the call, Davis announced the bank would sponsor the 2017 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention in Pueblo, Colo. next fall.
"The convention is inspiring, to say the least," said Davis, recalling this year's opening ceremony that was held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. "Each of the honorees was humble to the highest degree not wanting to be recognized as a hero; rather, proudly representing the many people who serve."
A significant veteran employer, U.S. Bank has hired more than 470 veterans this year and now employs more than 2,000. The bank supports veteran and active-duty military members and their families in a variety of ways, including providing flexible work arrangements for veteran employees, donating mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans and hosting special events throughout the year such as the Veterans Day Call.
Many of these efforts are led by U.S. Bank's business resource group (BRG) for veteran employees, named Proud to Serve. Last month the BRG was honored with the 2016 ERG & Council Honors Award as a top employee resource group nationwide, placing fifth among more than 1,000 entries.
Proud to Serve chapters from across the country tuned in to listen to Captain Groberg talk about his motivation for joining the military – his uncle was killed by extremists in Algeria in 1996, his sense of responsibility to use his new platform to give back to the veteran community, and what civilians can learn from veterans about leadership.
He spoke about how leadership means surrounding yourself in good company and relying on those around you. After he landed in Afghanistan in 2009 – to screams to run for cover as a rocket-propelled grenade hit the tail of the helicopter he'd just stepped off – his battalion commander told him he’d be in charge of 24 lives as a then-26-year-old "green" lieutenant.
"I did the one thing I could do. I took my rank, my pride and my ego and threw them to the side," said Groberg. "Then I found my most senior noncommissioned officer and I told him that for me to be successful as the right type of leader, I'd need him to guide me, teach me, and mentor me into this position."
In conclusion thanking Captain Groberg, U.S. Bank's Davis pointed to this as a lesson for employees.
"All of you who served our country and now serve this company are invited to do just that: guide us, train us and mentor us," he said. "We’ll teach you the technical job of being a servant in the way of financial services, you teach us to be a guide into a better way of living our lives."
Pat Swanson is a member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.