8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor

Image of 8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier's Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor
Release Date: 
November 6, 2017
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by: 

“This is a straightforward, well-told, and uplifting personal story of what essentially represents the American dream.”

It should go without saying that everyone who has served in our recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is a hero. However, in the Global War on Terror (GWoT), there are others who, even more so, deserve that accolade by virtue of being Medal of Honor recipients, especially living ones, in what are somewhat unconventional and yet asymmetrical conflicts.

In recent years, we have seen the ceremonies on live television honoring these heroes and, surely, must wonder what it takes to be so honored. It makes one want to see video of this heroism and exactly what is involved and necessary to be awarded such a prestigious decoration. Of course, each recipient would eschew this medal in exchange for the lives of any and all brothers in arms who didn’t make it back alive.

Such is the case with the book under review, a tale of heroism and tragedy. What makes this story even more interesting and remarkable is the fact that the recipient, who lived to receive his Medal of Honor, is also a rather recent immigrant to the United States from France, taking inspiration from the example of his uncle who lost his life serving in the Algerian army against an extremist Muslim organization in the 1990s.

Having an interest in military history and, of course, playing with toy soldiers as he grew up, it was natural that Florent Groberg would join the United States military after his family moved here. Wanting to be the best, he graduated from Ranger school, one of the toughest, and was almost immediately deployed to Afghanistan where he served conventionally in the fight against elements of the Taliban in the eastern part of the country, not far from the Pakistan border.

Following this deployment, he was then assigned another in Afghanistan, providing personal security to higher ups whose goal was winning the hearts and minds of the local people through schools and education, better healthcare, nutrition, and providing protection from the enemy to improve their lives.

A meeting with local elders for this purpose is what resulted in the circumstances in which Groberg found himself tested to the limits of his abilities, intuition, and experience in combat in his first deployment. His reflex and reaction to the presence of what was a suicide bomber’s effort to disrupt the meeting is what gives this book its title.

Unfortunately, eight seconds were not enough and, although Groberg did mitigate other possible casualties, there were fatalities, and he suffered serious injuries himself, which resulted in numerous surgeries, physical rehabilitation, and the end of his military career. It is largely a miracle that he survived the attack.

On the plus side, he is making the most of his opportunity with a corporate position that assists veterans returning to civilian life and employment and eventual marriage to his fiancée, Carsen. Now, of course, he is also an author with the assistance of Tom Sileo who, in recent years, has written about or collaborated with others in telling the stories of military heroes that the public may better appreciate the sacrifices being made on our behalf.

As an autobiographical memoir, there are no notes or bibliography. There are, however, two maps that locate Afghanistan and the area of the forward operating bases during Groberg’s first deployment. Also included is an overhead aerial photo showing the location of the attack which he attempted to prevent.

A separate section contains personal photos of Groberg as a young man, with friends and family, official photos of him during his deployment, the day of the Medal of Honor ceremony, receiving the decoration from President Obama and, finally, of him and his fiancée on the day of his marriage proposal.

This is a straightforward, well-told, and uplifting personal story of what essentially represents the American dream. How a young man from another country can come to America and ultimately become a hero to all, enriching our national fabric and confirming the potential that everyone has and our country can provide in combination with one’s own personal initiative, commitment and drive.

This is also a story of heroism and sacrifice, reinforcing the American ideal that we should always honor and remember those who serve. They do what they do for all of us.