––Rachel S. Cohen
President Donald Trump bestows the Medal of Honor upon David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant, at the White House on June 25, 2019. White House video screenshot via President Donald Trump on Twitter.
President Donald Trump on June 25 presented the Medal of Honor to David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant who is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the military’s highest award for valor in combat.
Bellavia, 43, ensured his fellow soldiers could escape from a building where insurgents lay in wait during the battle to liberate Fallujah on Bellavia’s 29th birthday, Nov. 10, 2004.
“For three days straight, David and his men kicked down doors, searched houses, and destroyed enemy weapons, never knowing where they would find a terrorist lurking next,” Trump said in a White House ceremony.
The group was ambushed in the 10th of a series of 12 houses, a three-story building where two occupants opened fire from behind concrete barricades.
“David knew they had to get out,” Trump said. “He leapt into the torrent of bullets and fired back at the enemy. … He provided suppressive fire while his men evacuated, rescuing his entire squad at the risk of his own life.”
Once outside in the dark, more enemy combatants shot at the Americans from the roof. Bellavia reentered the building alone, killing four assailants and seriously wounding one, to protect his soldiers.
The Washington Post reported Bellavia previously received the Silver Star for his actions and is now earning a higher honor following former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to review valor awards from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Bellavia left the Army in August 2005 and co-founded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization that sought to separate politics from the warriors who fight in the field,” according to the Army. “Their membership consisted of tens of thousands of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bellavia returned to Iraq as an embedded reporter in 2006 and 2008 where he covered the heavy fighting in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Diyala Province. In 2007, he wrote a book, House to House, detailing his experiences in Fallujah.”
He also unsuccessfully tried to unseat Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)—who was indicted on federal insider trading charges last year—in the 2012 Republican primary. Bellavia lives in western New York with his wife and three children.
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