Receiving the nation's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, is an often bittersweet experience for those who receive the award. The medal represents extreme bravery in the face of insurmountable danger and almost always comes with the ultimate sacrifice from the recipient themself or their fellow servicemembers. However, the medal also represents the potential to do good.
Medal of Honor Recipient Leroy Petry leads the Seattle Seahawks onto the field.
Admit it, if you heard "Medal of Honor" mentioned in a meeting at work or during a football game, your ears would perk up, and that's exactly the power that two Medal of Honor recipients have used with the NFL in preparation for the 2018 season.
Captain Florent "Flo" Groberg and Master Sergeant Leroy Petry are part of Mission 6 Zero, a management consulting company where veterans teach businesses and teams how to achieve peak performance. Now these two decorated veterans are using their experience to help train NFL teams.
Both Groberg and Petry received their Medals of Honor for valorous actions in Afghanistan. The conflict there is entering its 17th year as the 2018 NFL season begins with a new rule requiring players to stand during the National Anthem or remain in the locker room. The choice of some NFL players to kneel in protest last year resulted in consternation from members of the military and veteran community who believe the action disrespects the sacrifice and honor of countless service members who have paid the ultimate price for their country. Now some NFL teams are asking Groberg and Petry, who are living ambassadors of this sacrifice, to share their stories of combat and recovery with players across the league.
Medal of Honor Recipient Army Capt. Flo Groberg on patrol in Afghanistan.
In 2012, Captain Flo Groberg was on his second tour in Afghanistan, serving on the personal security detail for his commander, when he made a tackle that would humble even the best NFL linebackers. During a routine patrol, Groberg noticed a suicide bomber in the crowd and immediately rushed the threat. Flo pushed the bomber away from his fellow soldiers, but the bomber detonated the vest, throwing Groberg almost twenty feet in the air.
Groberg, who lost a majority of his calf and suffered from traumatic brain injury, spent the next three years recovering from his injuries. Today, Groberg has shared his story with thousands of businesses and even became a major part of the executive team at Boeing, but now the Medal of Honor recipient has a very clear message to the NFL players he has spoken to: The act of one individual can literally change the game and you must always be ready to act.
Groberg told We Are The Mighty, "Over the course of the past three years I've had the privilege of supporting Kaleb Thornhill and the Miami Dolphins on the player development side. From culture to communication to goal setting, there are many parallels between the military and the NFL."
Medal of Honor Recipient Master Sergeant Petry as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Master Sgt. Leroy Petry has a different story for the NFL, and it's about one of the most badass incomplete passes in history. In 2008, Petry was on his seventh — yes — seventh deployment as a member of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, a unit known for its discipline and focus on teamwork. During a raid on a Taliban compound, Petry and his small element of Rangers came under fire from almost forty enemy fighters. Despite being wounded in both legs, Petry, a gnarly combat veteran, directed his team of Rangers to return fire.
As both sides took cover, the fight turned into grenade throwing contest to take each other out. When a Taliban grenade landed near the group, Petry instinctively picked up the explosive and attempted to throw it back at the enemy. The grenade exploded, taking Petry's hand with it. Petry, who now only had one arm, used it to apply a tourniquet above his wound and kept going. In response, Petry's fellow Rangers rallied and provided covering fire to evacuate their wounded noncommissioned officer.
Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, but he credits the response of the team with saving his life. After recovering from his wounds, Petry chose to stay in the Army until his retirement in 2014. Petry has worked with teams like the Minnesota Vikings in preparation for this season to help them understand that a play may fail during the game but a win requires teamwork always.
NFL teams from the Chicago Bears to the Miami Dolphins to the Minnesota Vikings have all taken the time to listen to Medal of Honor recipients before the 2018 season. Jason Van Camp, CEO of Mission 6 Zero, has seen the impact these veterans have made firsthand.
"Let me tell you something," Van Camp said, "I am incredibly honored and humbled to work with Flo and Leroy. Above all else, they are unapologetically authentic, and I love them for that. When they share their experiences with our NFL clients, you can feel the atmosphere in the locker room change in an extremely positive way. Players and coaches are transfixed during their presentation and devour the life skills that Flo Leroy share with them. It's a special thing to be a part of."
Minnesota Vikings surrounding Leroy Petry (center) after a fundraiser for Warrior Rising executed by Mission 6 Zero.
Jason Van Camp, Leroy Petry, and Flo Groberg (not pictured) accept a donation from TickPick on behalf of Warrior Rising at the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Leroy Petry works with the Minnesota Vikings to raise support for Warrior Rising and Mission 6 Zero.