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
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.