Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
This Army veteran will become the Iraq War's first living Medal of Honor recipient
A former Army staff sergeant who took on enemy fighters at close range, first with an M249 light machine gun and then with a knife, will be the first living veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom to receive the Medal of Honor, Military.com has learned.
David S. Bellavia, 43, of Batavia, New York, will have his Silver Star upgraded to the highest military award for valor in a June 25 ceremony at the White House, a source close to Bellavia confirmed to Military.com. The news of the award was first posted at the American Legion's Burn Pit blog Thursday and then confirmed by Army Times. The White House is expected to announce the award next week.
Bellavia's Silver Star citation, for heroism on Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, reads like the script of an action movie. An infantryman with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, Bellavia was ordered with his platoon to clear a 12-building block in which "jihadists" were taking shelter in order to fire on American troops, according to the citation.
After clearing the first nine buildings and finding only weapons caches, Bellavia and four other soldiers entered the tenth and found themselves under fire from insurgents. As more soldiers rushed in to reinforce the five, the close-quarters combat became hot and intense, and troops began to go down with injuries due to small-arms fire and debris.
"At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with an M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the Jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street," the citation reads.
In the street, the soldiers came under fire from enemy fighters shooting from the building's roof. As they took cover in an adjacent building, Bellavia went back into the street to call in a Bradley fighting vehicle to shell the structures. He then went back into the first building to see whether any insurgents remained alive, according to the citation.
He would find himself one man pitted against a house full of armed enemy fighters.
"I wanted that revenge. I wanted to be that leader that I promised I would be," Bellavia later said about the fight, according to a 2016 Army release. "A light switch went off."
He first encountered an insurgent with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and gunned him down.
"A second Jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen, and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder," the citation reads. "A third Jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon. Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man."
Bellavia continued fighting, killing the insurgent upstairs. Then, another insurgent jumped out of the wardrobe in the bedroom where he was hiding, and began "firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe."
The insurgent was shot and wounded by Bellavia, but got away. As Bellavia tried to pursue him into the second floor of the building, the soldier slipped on stairs slick with blood. Regaining his footing and climbing the stairs, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the upper room, flushing the insurgent onto the roof.
"Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position," the citation reads. "The wounded Jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist's throat."
He would continue to fight and fell insurgents until he was joined by five other members of the platoon, his citation states.
Bellavia left the Army in 2005 after six years of service and would go on to co-found the political advocacy organization Vets for Freedom. He documented his military experiences in "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War," co-written with John R. Bruning and published in 2007.
The long-awaited and historic Medal of Honor comes as the Pentagon concludes a wide-ranging review of valor awards from the conflicts following Sept. 11, 2001. Bellavia's Medal of Honor upgrade will be the third for the Army and the fifth overall as a result of the review.
This article originally appeared on Military.com
More articles from Military.com:
- Army Selects First Female General to Command Infantry Division
- The Army Ignored Her Warnings About a Dangerous Colleague. Then He Set Her on Fire
- 4 Charged in Green Beret's Death Reportedly Planned to Sexually Assault Him on Camera
WATCH NEXT: Medal Of Honor Recipient Flo Groberg's Favorite War Movies
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.