'This country is worthy of any sacrifice' — David Bellavia receives the Medal of Honor


President Donald Trump awards Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Bellavia is a Iraq veteran who cleared an insurgent strongpoint and allowed members of his platoon to move to safety.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."

"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.

"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."

Ware was one of the men that was there the night Bellavia first laid down fire to allow a pinned-down squad to exit a house held by several insurgents, and then went back into the house, killing five of them — one in hand-to-hand combat.

Ware went with Bellavia back into the house, camera rolling, and witnessed the heroic acts that earned him a Medal of Honor on Tuesday, the first given to a living recipient from the Iraq War.

And it's been a long time coming. Col. Douglas Walter, who wrote Bellavia's award recommendation, said at a roundtable with reporters on Monday that he started the process almost immediately after the unit returned from Fallujah, submitting the recommendation at the beginning of 2005.

Bellavia was awarded the Silver Star — which he called an "incredible honor in of itself" — and didn't learn it was being upgraded until he spoke to President Donald Trump on the phone several months ago.

"There was always rumors" it would be upgraded, Bellavia told reporters on Monday. "But you know, 15 years goes by, and you move on with your life; you put the war behind you, you focus on your family, you focus on work. And my life was 100% perfect without a valor award of any type. ... this was just very humbling."

At the award ceremony on Tuesday, Trump took a moment to honor the Gold Star families of Bellavia's brothers in arms who were in attendance. He also said Bellavia "single-handedly defeated the forces who attacked his unit, and would have killed them all."

"Knowing that he would face almost certain death, David decided to go back inside the house and make sure that not a single terrorist escaped alive," Trump said. "Alone in the dark, David killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, saving his soldiers and facing down the enemies of civilization."

Bellavia told reporters on Monday that the "narrative of the Iraq War has long been written" and he wasn't there to "change anyone's mind." He added that he's "mighty proud" to be an Iraq War veteran.

While he repeatedly shifted questions to crediting the fellow soldiers sitting next to him, and others he served with — Ware described Bellavia as "embarrassingly modest" to Task & Purpose — they just as quickly pointed back to him, praising the actions he took that night.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Colin Fitts told reporters that he "wouldn't be sitting here today" if it wasn't for Bellavia. Walter said he "exemplifies selfless service and sacrifice."

But Bellavia said it was "really easy" to make the decision he did, given the men he was surrounded by.

"Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13, but peer pressure can also make you do things you normally wouldn't do," Bellavia said. "It's who your peers are — what kind of character and what kind of honor ... I was always blessed to have some of the greatest men I've ever met, highest dignity and honor."

As for what's next, Bellavia said he wants "to be of service to my Army."

"At the end of the day, this country is worthy of any sacrifice," he said. "We have a volunteer force that does it every single day ... We are not kicking down doors because we want to make sure we get paid on the 1st and the 15th. We do that because we love our country, we love our Army, and we love each other."

SEE NEXT: 'It Just Happened' — The Iraq War's First Living Medal Of Honor Recipient Recalls His Harrowing Fight Against 5 Insurgents

WATCH ALSO: Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia in Operation Phantom Fury

US Marine Corps

The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.

"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'

"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"

Read More Show Less

At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.

A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.

Read More Show Less

In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."

A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.

In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

Read More Show Less