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Former NCO Receives Medal of Honor

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David Bellavia
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, who single-handedly cleared a house filled with insurgents and saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers during the brutal Second Battle of Fallujah, on June 25 became the first living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the Medal of Honor.

Bellavia, now 43, received the nation’s highest award for valor from President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House. He is the fourth soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq.

“America’s blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag,” Trump said during the ceremony.

Bellavia, who was in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said it was “awkward” to be singled out for the award. Instead, he credited his fellow soldiers for their actions on the battlefield.

“I never thought I’d see love on a battlefield,” he said. “It’s horrible, it’s ghastly, it’s ghoulish, but you see people doing things for each other that they would never, ever do in any other circumstance. It’s a sight to see, and it’ll change your life forever.”

Bellavia, who originally received the Silver Star, was recognized for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, according to the White House.

Bellavia and his fellow soldiers were clearing a block of houses when his platoon became pinned down. He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged the insurgents, providing cover fire so he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely, according to the White House.

Armed with an M16, Bellavia went back into the house and attacked a pair of insurgents who were firing rocket-propelled grenades at his fellow soldiers. He killed one insurgent and wounded another.

The wounded insurgent and another fighter, who had come rushing down the stairs, engaged Bellavia. The soldier returned fire, killing both attackers. He then took fire from an insurgent who appeared from a closet across the room. Bellavia chased him up the stairs and killed him, before moving to the roof where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building, according to the White House.

Bellavia’s actions during the “bloodiest battle of the Iraq War” saved his soldiers, Trump said. Thirty-two of Bellavia’s fellow soldiers, including 12 who fought alongside him that night, attended the White House ceremony.

“Today we honor your extraordinary courage, we salute your selfless service, and we thank you for carrying on the legacy of American valor that has always made our blessed nation the strongest and mightiest anywhere in the world,” Trump said.