Eric Harvey, Contributor
Some weeks ago, the Cal Veterans Service Center on campus received an invitation to attend a special event at the LinkedIn Mountain View office. The reserved space was for one UC Berkeley staff member and five student veterans. I was not on the original guest list, but due to a last minute schedule conflict and cancellation, a spot opened up. I stepped up and was able to get on the list!
This special event, as part of the continuing Speaker Series, featured a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor, Florent Groberg. Florent received the US military’s highest honor by President Obama on November 12, 2015, for tackling a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, saving the lives of several VIP’s around him. The suicide bomber detonated, but Florent miraculously survived and has now dedicated his life to serving the veteran community. To accomplish this endeavor, he partnered with LinkedIn to help spread his message.
I struggle with trying to convey the gravity of this honor to those who have not served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Most often in our country’s history this award has been given to the surviving family members of a fallen service member, one that has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and paid the ultimate price. This is something that cannot be taught within the walls of a university. The experience of watching people die in front of you in the performance of duty, and then trying to reconcile that experience as one moves on with life either in the military or civilian world, is a skill that is unteachable. As is learning to live with sacrifices and knowing that only a few people in the world will ever make sacrifices that parallel those made by military members.
Florent graciously shared his story with us, discussing information about his life and background that brought him to where he is today. At times it was emotional, it was definitely insightful, but above all it was motivational. Military members are all called to duty for different purposes, but they have in common their desire to do everything in their power to earn the honors and rights that may be eventually bestowed upon them. The validity, goals, or intentions of military missions can surely be debated, but one reality will always remain crystal clear to me throughout my life–FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.
The definition and title of a hero–a person who is admired for great and brave acts, or fine character–is not sufficient enough for Florent, and with his humble nature he may even brush off the title saying he is not one. He contends that heroes are those he was unable to bring back home on that fateful day of August 8, 2012.
“Nothing can be accomplished without teamwork. I wouldn’t be here without the incredible acts of my team.” -Retired Captain Florent Groberg
I extend a very sincere thank you to all the staff involved with the planning and execution of this event at LinkedIn, and appreciation to the staff of the Cal Veterans Service Center for creating the opportunity to be invited to attend in the first place.