For the first time in his life Florent Groberg voted Democrat this year, supporting Hillary Clinton for president. The 33-year-old veteran and 2015 Medal of Honor Recipient endorsed Clinton live at the Democratic National Convention in July.
“I was very disappointed. I was probably like everyone else, shocked,” he told DecodeDC of his reaction to her loss. “I went to bed disappointed and I woke up with a new attitude towards it.”
Groberg believed Clinton was the best-fit candidate and had faith in her foreign policy experience and commitment to veterans. He wanted Clinton to win, and still thinks many Republican policies like tax reform are misplaced, but he’s ready to look to the future and thinks everyone else should follow suit.
“You’ve got to keep a positive mindset—if not we’ll all just cry in our beds for the next four years which is stupid,” he said. “Instead we need to unify and work together and both parties need to go out there and start grooming the next generation of leaders that actually fit what this country needs.”
Groberg says his thought process stems from his military background. He’s a former U.S. Army captain who was awarded the Medal of Honor for protecting fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. He still actively works with veterans groups like Warrior Ethos, which helps wounded vets like him transition into civilian life. While he served, Groberg said it was the norm for most soldiers to opt-out of voting for a president because they knew they’d support the Commander-in-Chief regardless of his political party. And what better time to start thinking like a veteran than Veterans day.
“I’m a realist. This is reality. This is the military mindset… once the person is elected President, that’s it. Stop complaining. That’s what happened. That’s just the way it works,” he said. “Did I want Hillary Clinton in office? Yes. Is she in office? No. Is she at home like I am? Yes. Who is the president going to be? Donald Trump. Why am I going to cry about it?”
Groberg speaks from the apartment that he shares with his girlfriend in Washington. His living room is equipped with drawers full of military coins – including one from President Obama – and has enough medals on display to make any parent proud. Talking about Trump, who Groberg has chastised for calling America weak at rallies and for failing to give over donations he promised to veterans groups, Groberg isn’t straining to sound positive about the future.
“When I got hit and after [I left] Afghanistan, one of the things I learned is you have to in every negative situation you have to find a positive,” Groberg said. “The positive here is that this man beat all odds to become President of the United States. Which means to me, that in this country you can accomplish almost the impossible if you put your mind to it.”
Groberg admitted he’s also slightly excited about the prospects of a new presidency and says the majority of his friends (80 percent he estimates) are actually happy about Trump’s win. Trump made strengthening the military and putting more money in the Department of Defense a key policy point during his campaign.
“I’m actually in a weird way really interested to see where we are going to be a year from now,” he said. “I mean I’m nervous, but I’m really not, because I really, truly believe in this country. And I also understand that for a president to really screw things up, it takes a lot.”
In terms of Trump’s ability to serve the military well, Groberg believes the best thing he can do is surround himself with bright military leaders and to take their advice to heart. He says foreign affairs is really the only issue that frightens him about Trump taking the wheel—especially he says, if Trump backs out of NATO or escalating disagreements with foreign leaders.
“Any type of temperament that he had in the election against a foreign leader could be a really bad thing for us. What is he doing to do when he gets insulted by North Korea? Or if the president of the Philippines calls him an asshole like he called Obama…how will he answer? Diplomacy is very important,” he said.
What Groberg doesn’t find patriotic though—is some of the reactions he’s seen from anti-Trump supporters, many of which are millennials like him. He says he supports the protestors as long as they all voted. He has little tolerance for the “hypocrites” who opted not to vote but are now rallying, or the millennials who voted for Gary Johnson, who he said, “are crazy to me.”
Groberg admits he’s not happy about the new president-elect, but he’s not afraid either. He said this is simply how elections work.
“He won fair and square, he beat her. We thought she was going to win, and I personally ended up on the losing side, but ok, what do you do? It’s called sportsmanship,” he said. “You lost. Done. Put your shoes and your pants on the same way you did the day before and drive on. President Obama said it best, tomorrow the sun will come up.”