The White House has announced that former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living Iraq war veteran to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
President Donald Trump will present Bellavia, 43, with the nation's highest military award for valor on June 25 at a White House ceremony.
Army Times reporter Meghann Myers was the first journalist to confirm that Bellavia's Silver Star will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. During the second battle for Fallujah in 2004, Bellavia single-handedly rescued an entire squad, wiped out an insurgent stronghold and saved several members of his platoon, a White House news release said.
Bellavia declined to comment when reached by phone on Monday.
On Nov. 10, 2004, Bellavia was serving with Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division when his platoon became pinned down while clearing a block of houses in Fallujah.
“At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with a 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,” according to his Silver Star citation, which is posted on the Military Times Hall of Valor website.
He called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle but it was unable to fire directly into the house with insurgents, who were armed with rocket propelled grenades, his award citation says. So Bellavia took an M-16 and assaulted the enemy stronghold alone.
Bellavia first shot and killed an insurgent who was loading an RPG and then wounded a second insurgent, whom he killed while clearing the home's master bedroom.
After Bellavia killed a third insurgent upstairs, another jihadist who was hiding in a wardrobe jumped out and started firing wildly. The man tripped and Bellavia shot him several times, but the wounded jihadist was able to escape.
“Sergeant Bellavia pursued, but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs,” the citation said. “The wounded insurgent fired at him but missed. He followed the bloody tracks up the stairs to a room to the left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, sending the wounded Jihadist onto the roof.”
The jihadist fired his weapon until he ran out of ammunition and then went back into the room, which was filling with smoke.
“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 Silver Star citation said. “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. Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade's rescue, fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire.”
Suddenly a fifth insurgent dropped from the third story to the second story roof. Bellavia shot and hit him in his back and legs. The dead insurgent fell off the roof.
Bellavia left the Army in August 2005 and went on to write about his military experience in his book “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War,” co-written with John R. Bruning. He now hosts a daily radio talk show in Buffalo, New York.