Staff Sgt. David Bellavia celebrated his 29th birthday on Nov. 10, 2004, by standing in direct enemy fire in order to save many of his soldiers’ lives. On June 25, 2019, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump in recognition of his heroism.
Up until Bellavia’s bestowment, only four Iraq War veterans had received the illustrious award, although posthumously. Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor.
Before placing the blue-ribboned medal around Bellavia’s neck, Trump illustrated the scene in Fallujah, Iraq, where Bellavia demonstrated his fortitude.
“In the dark of night, shards of glass, brick and plaster flew into the air, wounding multiple soldiers. The rounds of fire ripped holes into the wall separating the Americans from the terrorists. The wall was ripped to shreds. David knew they had to get out. David thought that they had had it. He leapt into the torrent of bullets, and fired back at the enemy without even thinking. The insurgents… he just took over. David took over. He provided suppressive fire while his men evacuated, rescuing his entire squad at the risk of his own life. Only when his men were all out, did David exit the building.”
Militants on the roof continued to fire deadly rounds at Bellavia and his platoon. Knowing he would likely face certain death, he went back into the building to make sure all remaining terrorists were stopped. He succeeded in his solo mission via hand-to-hand combat, killing four insurgents and seriously wounding a fifth.
Bellavia was discharged from the Army in 2005 after six years of service, and has also received the Silver Star and Bronze Star along with several other individual and unit awards. In his transition from service, he returned to his home state of New York where he now hosts a radio talk show. He is also a cofounder of Vets for Freedom and the author of “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War.”
Bellavia was joined at the White House ceremony by his wife, three children, mother and his two brothers. Additionally, 32 soldiers who served with him in Iraq were in attendance plus 12 who were with him during his defining moment of heroism, and five Gold Star families of his fallen brothers-in-arms.