Military Ovation: Former ND Guard soldier who lost his right leg in Afghanistan heads to Cabo San Lucas for golfing
FARGO -- North Dakota National Guard veteran Sam Floberg will be back at Hector International Airport almost six years to the day since he returned home after losing his right leg to a rocket attack in Afghanistan.
This time, Floberg isn't returning home from war to a new and uncertain future as an amputee.
When he lands about 1 a.m. on March 11 at the Fargo airport, Floberg will be returning from a golf and fishing trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with fellow veterans and amputees from across the nation.
The group will leave March 5 on the trip sponsored by North Dakota's Military Ovation and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Shelle Michaels Aberle, founder of North Dakota's Military Ovation, said the group plans a reception for Floberg at the airport when he gets home.
"We're still working on the details, but it's going to be fun," Aberle said. "He deserves it."
Floberg joined the North Dakota National guard in 2003 and was deployed with the 1/188th Air Defense Artillery Battalion in Afghanistan in 2006. On Thanksgiving Day, after enjoying a holiday meal, Floberg was sent out in the last Humvee of a routine patrol.
His unit was almost done patrolling when a rocket soared past his head. His unit began firing on the enemy; Floberg said he saw another rocket whiz past him.
He said a third rocket struck his vehicle, but did not destroy the truck. A fourth rocket proved fatal, again hitting the truck. Part of the rocket severed Floberg's right leg and killed the driver, Cpl. Nathan Goodiron of Mandaree.
Floberg said his memory is filled with only sketches of the accident. He was taken to a hospital in Afghanistan and eventually to Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he underwent about eight months of therapy and rehabilitation.
Floberg, who had been an electrician, returned home to pursure a new career and learn to live life with a disability. Although often in constant phantom pain, he said he just takes the challenges he finds as an amputee as they come.
"You just have to have a positive attitude," he said.
While the effects of war may be clearly visible on Floberg -- who wore a patriotic wrap designed with eagles and the U.S. Flag on his prosthetic last week -- he tries to help others recognize and understand the invisible wounds of veterans.
Floberg lost consciousness for about a half hour after the attack, resulting in a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. He has difficulty concentrating and has short-term memory loss.
He tries to help his teachers and fellow students understand the symptoms of TBI so they can help other veterans in the classrooms who may need help.
The trip to Cabo San Lucas includes two days of golf and two days of deep-sea fishing.
As the 35-year-old prepares to graduate from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in business, the trip comes at a perfect time, Floberg said.
An avid fisherman, he said he has never golfed.
"It will be interesting."
What Floberg is really looking forward to is the networking possibilities the trip is designed to offer.
"They try to put you in touch with people in the industry you're interested in," he said. "It's another tool to put in your toolbox."
Aberle said she knew Floberg, an outspoken advocate of veterans and one who is quick to help others in his community, was more than deserving of the trip.
Aberle founded Military Ovation in 2012. The nonprofit aims to support and help North Dakota military members, veterans and their families.
She said she wanted Military Ovation to be an exclusively North Dakota-based military support organization. The group has contacts in all major North Dakota cities.
Lori Thompson, Military Ovation chief financial officer, said the group's assistance ranges from raising money for a veteran's bus ticket to a clinic appointment, to finding volunteers to help the wife of a deployed service member with house repairs. The group does it all, she said.
"We're just doing whatever we need to do to support the troops," Thompson said.
Callie Craddock, a North Dakota State University Veterans Affairs representative and Military Ovation representative for Fargo, said Military Ovation welcomes anyone interested in volunteering or fundraising.
"It's completely volunteer-based and that's what we are embracing," Craddock said.
Floberg said he is grateful to be a part of Military Ovation and has always been impressed with Aberle's drive to help veterans and military personnel.
"She's serving those that have served, which is just as equal if not more important," he said.