Sunday, February 4, 2018

Freedom Isn't Free

Arlington National Cemetery
I ran across a story the other day which has stuck with me for a couple of days now, running through my head, making me think. Behind every story of heroism there are other stories, stories which are often overlooked as the focus falls on that act of heroism.

The reason this story stuck with me is because it hit close to home.

As many of you know, my family is half-Korean. I have a great affinity for Korea, having lived there for nearly four years. Well, let me get to the story.

It started with this photo -

A poignant photograph, an all too familiar sight during the long war we've been in since 2001. Longer really, it was ongoing when USS Cole (DDG 67 was bombed), it goes back to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. In truth this war has been going on for centuries.

After I read the story of the Gray family, I dug deeper. Major Gray was killed in action  during the battle in which the actions of Captain Florent Groberg, United States Army, led to his receiving the Medal of Honor. Captain Groberg survived, badly injured, four other Americans died in that battle, Major Gray was one of them.

Captain Groberg was born in France, his mother was French-Algerian, and he became an American citizen in February of 2001. An immigrant son who fell deeply in love with his new country. Many immigrants who gain their citizenship the "old fashioned way" demonstrate that kind of love. Those of us who were born here, sometimes take it for granted.

Captain Florent Groberg, US Army (Retired)
Let's look at the citation accompanying the captain's Medal of Honor.

Captain Florent A. Groberg distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Asadbad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. On that day, Captain Groberg was leading a dismounted movement consisting of several senior leaders to include two brigade commanders, two battalion commanders, two command sergeants major, and an Afghanistan National Army brigade commander. As they approached the Provincial Governor’s compound, Captain Groberg observed an individual walking close to the formation. When the individual made an abrupt turn towards the formation, he noticed an abnormal bulge underneath the individual’s clothing. Selflessly placing himself in front of one of the brigade commanders, Captain Groberg rushed forward, using his body to push the suspect away from the formation. Simultaneously, he ordered another member of the security detail to assist with removing the suspect. At this time, Captain Groberg confirmed the bulge was a suicide vest and with complete disregard for his life, Captain Groberg again with the assistance of the other member of the security detail, physically pushed the suicide bomber away from the formation. Upon falling, the suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside the perimeter of the formation, killing four members of the formation and wounding numerous others. The blast from the first suicide bomber caused the suicide vest of a previously unnoticed second suicide bomber to detonate prematurely with minimal impact on the formation. Captain Groberg’s immediate actions to push the first suicide bomber away from the formation significantly minimized the impact of the coordinated suicide bombers’ attack on the formation, saving the lives of his comrades and several senior leaders. Captain Groberg’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect credit upon himself, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

Captain Groberg was medically retired from the Army due to his injuries, you can read more about the captain here, and here.

At that site there is this picture, which leads me to the story I've been mulling over since Thursday.

Command Sergeant Major Griffin was from Wyoming, 24 years in the army, he left behind a wife and two children. You should go and read CSM Griffin's obituary here.

Major Kennedy was from New York. A graduate of West Point, an artilleryman, 12 years in the Army, he also left behind a wife and two children. Again, please go read his obituary here.

Major Walter D. Gray (who went by David) was, like my children, half-Korean. He was from Georgia. He had served as an enlisted man before gaining his commission. He left behind a wife and three children. From what I read here, he was my kind of officer. I need to stop by and pay my respects the next time I visit Arlington.

Mister Ragaei Abdelfattah was a USAID Foreign Service Officer. Another immigrant who came to this country from Egypt and fell in love with America. He was from Maryland. I love this quote from a friend -
“We had trips around the state where Ragaei would just want to stop at somebody’s roadside pie restaurant outside of Harrisonburg [Va.] or on [Route] 460, coming back through the peanut farm area,” Koebel said. “He just loved everything about the United States.” 
That included bad chain restaurants and classic suburbia, his wife said. “I used to joke with him that he was even more American than I was.” (Source)
Mister Abdelfattah left behind a wife and two children.

All of these men, and so many more like them (and women as well) deserve to be remembered, and honored. We tend to forget that behind the stories of the heroism and the medals, real people are impacted. Lives are lost, other lives are changed forever. It's important that we remember these folks.

Really, they are people, just like us. They had hopes and dreams, they loved and were loved. They helped to make this country the place it is, or perhaps should be. We're not perfect, but we should strive to be.

Love one another. Honor those whose sacrifices allow us to live in peace and freedom.

These stories touched me, deeply. I shall add these names to those I try to remember, and say out loud, each Memorial Day.

Kevin Griffin

Thomas Kennedy

David Gray

Ragaei Abdelfattah

Make it personal.

Remember them.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to express this so eloquently. You put it perfectly. Looking at the grave markers at Arlington, or any of the Veterans cemeteries across our country, becomes overwhelming when considering our loss of them as individuals, and even moreso when thinking of the impact that loss has on those whom THEY loved.
    Isaiah 6:8 should be considered the "Warrior's Verse", in my most humble opinion.

    1. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

      And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

      Agreed Chuck.

  2. Well worth the wait, Sarge, well done. I'll read it in more detail after I get back from conversing with the big guy. Think I'll mention Major Gray.

  3. I agree with Juvat. Well done and well worth the wait!

    “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

    1. Mr Heinlein got a few things right in that book, didn't he?

    2. This has left me with the feeling I have when the snow is silently falling, falling.
      My heart has been touched this morning.

  4. Had to think about this response not wanting to "out story" you.

    The impact of these deaths envelope many people. The death of Capt. Dale Goetz, Chaplain, 1/4 I.D. near Kandahar in 2010 impacted my youngest son and his wife. Chaplain Goetz was their spiritual adviser and, along with his wife, a family friend. Worse, my son was part of the medical team that processed his remains and the remains of those killed along with him. Ghastly!

    1. I had to read further about Chaplain Goetz and his wife, heartbreaking really. But he went to the troops to cover their spiritual needs, such a good man.

      Thanks for bringing him to my attention, WSF. He's someone worth remembering.

  5. This post about five heroes actually represents all the unknown heroes who have sacrificed their time, comfort, health and all too often their lives for our freedom and also shines light on the lives of their wives and children who have sacrificed so much as well.

    Keep posting these stories!

    1. I will Joe, it feels like something I owe to them and those left behind.

  6. This! This right here! This is why I read your blog. These are the stories that NEED to be told, shared, read, thought about on a regular basis. Should be required reading in Congress and in the Administrative buildings in DC so that the folks who work for We The People" remember that their decisions (good and bad) have consequences (good and bad) on the rest of us.

    Men of high honor have sacrificed everything, as have their families. And our country is better for it. But we need to remember, and to be aware, while going about our "normal day", that frequently, someone else's day is not "normal".
    Prayers for the families impacted. Their loved ones are definitely all in Heaven.

    Now I need to go clean this house...the dust around here is just everywhere.

  7. The gardens of stone, the heroic defense of a nation and selfless sacrifice for their brothers-in-arms, the blood and lives shattered with loved ones never getting over it, never forgetting that unbelievably bad day when the news was delivered. I can read the stories, and in some cases, of men I knew who died in Op Redwings and elsewhere, years before THAT Afghan war when we had a clandestine Afghan war against the Soviets - we lost people there too, unheralded, without medals or brass bands or formations to announce how they died, where they died, etc. Sometimes but less often they were 'our own', more frequently locals filled the levy, recruited with blandishments, and hollow promises, sometimes small bribes. They went were we would not and were rewarded with an unmarked grave, or more likely, a 'sky burial' where vultures, ravens and kites picked their bones clean. The valor no less profound, the values of east and west hopelessly entangled in a push and pull that was not resolved in Alexander's time any more than it has been in ours.

    I weep for the bravery of all, for the sacrifice that has been laid out that others may live and that a nation under God may endure. In all cases, I pray that they did not die in vain.

    The treachery at the highest posts in government these days. The smug treason and sly media makes a mockery of them, of their families.

    That's how I feel.

    1. Thanks LL.

      A number of us feel as you do, hopefully things will improve. We, the people, must hold those in power accountable.

  8. I can not write anything better, or as good as the commenters before me here. Another outstanding post.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  9. As Paul said, "Another outstanding post."
    And we all know it isn't really a pollen attack.

  10. Well said, Sarge.
    I am glad there are writer like you who can express such things for the rest of us.

  11. Well said. As I read the obits I was struck by how common those men were in the Armed Forces of America.

  12. Sad, but they make me feel proud of our country. People like you, and posts like this, do very well to counter the idiots like Salcido from El Rancho High who (to paraphrase a movie line) lives under the very freedom we provide, and criticizes the people who provide it.

    1. Thanks Tuna. Information is useful to counter ignorance. I try to do my bit.


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