A North Dakota Army National Guard Soldier who was wounded on Thanksgiving Day 2006 in Afghanistan received a national award Thursday evening at the West Fargo VFW. Sam Floberg became the first Veteran of the Afghanistan War to be honored with the American Patriot Award during the special ceremony.
North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Lonnie Wangen nominated Floberg for the award and had the privilege of presenting it.
"Although I was there to welcome Sam back to North Dakota (after he was injured), I didn't know him personally then," Wangen said. "... Sam's attitude has inspired these soldiers (who served with him) and I still hear them speak of what an inspiration Sam is today."
Floberg, 31, lost part of his right leg in the Nov. 23, 2006, rocket-propelled grenade attack that also killed Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron and wounded Sgt. Claude O'Berry.
"I'm very humbled and honored by this," Floberg said during the ceremony, and he thanked the dozens of people who came on short notice to be part of the event, including "our North Dakota National Guard family."
Floberg volunteered for the mobilization, but says he has no regrets.
"Stuff happens, and you just have to step up to the plate and deal with it," he said. "Instead of just saying, 'Aw, I'm disabled,' and just sit on the sidelines, you can actually get out and play again."
As part of the presentation, Floberg received a commemorative bat from the American Patriot Program and a signed baseball from the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks. The American Patriot Program, or TAPP, is made up of nine baseball organizations from across the United States that are "united to honor the combat wounded Veteran through America's favorite national pastime," according to a TAPP news release.
"The TAPP team is greatly humbled to honor Sam through the program, and we desire to help provide a genuine sense of gratitude to what men and women of our nation are sacrificing for our liberty," said Wes Hazlett, TAPP founder.
Only four others have ever received the American Patriot Award; they include an injured World War II Frogman, wounded Vietnam Veteran and two Iraq War Veterans - one from Texas and one from South Dakota.
Floberg's family, including his 11-year-old daughter, Tiana, were present for the award presentation, as were members of Cpl. Goodiron's family. Numerous North Dakota Guardsmen and community supporters came for the event, as well.
"I have watched Sam achieve goals that he has set for himself through the years; not limiting his growth because he is an amputee or struggles with Traumatic Brain Injury," said Shelle Michaels, national communications director for the nonprofit Soldiers' Angels, who presented Floberg with the signed baseball. "Sam Floberg is deserving of the American Patriot Award. He exemplifies strength, courage and patriotism in all that he does on a daily basis. He encourages others to be the best they can be. I could not be more proud of Sam for all that he has given for this nation."
Floberg lives in Fargo, where he is pursuing a degree in business and finance at North Dakota State University.
For more information about the American Patriot Award, visit www.americanpatriotprogram.org.
Since the terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,400 soldiers and nearly 1,800 airmen in support of the global war on terrorism. Earlier in 2009, nearly 2,000 North Dakota National Guardsmen were mobilized for flood fighting missions all across North Dakota. With a total force of about 4,400 soldiers and airmen, we have sufficient forces available to provide emergency response and homeland defense.