U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (Ret.) David Bellavia was awarded our country’s highest military honor, by President Donald Trump, on June 25, 2019. This is the first time a living Iraq War veteran has received this prestigious award. There have been five others who have received the award for actions in Iraq – all posthumously. By comparison, there are 13 living Medal of Honor recipients from the Afghanistan War with another four receiving their medal posthumously. Since the United States entered the War on Terror, in 2001, nearly 2.8 million soldiers have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan – with a total of 5.4 million total deployments (source RAND Corporation). The Grey Beard Biker is pleased to see a living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War.
David Bellavia – Profile of Courage
David Bellavia, U.S Army Staff Sergeant
Unit: Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One)
Hometown: Lyndonville, New York
Date of Birth: November 10, 1975
Awards: Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal (3), Army Achievement Medal (2), Overseas Service Bars (2)
Battle and Mission
Ballavia was deployed to Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), in February 2004. Just days into the Second Battle of Fallujah, his 3rd Platoon was tasked with a pre-dawn mission to clear a block of 12 buildings in support of other soldiers fighting door-to-door. Intelligence believed there were significant al-Qaida forces holed up in the buildings. In order to take the city back, these buildings would need to be cleared, one at a time. Having cleared the first nine buildings, Ballavia’s platoon found itself caught in an ambush when it entered the tenth structure.
Bellavia’s Medal of Honor Citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by an Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.
Staff Sergeant David G. Ballavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq.
While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Ballavia’s platoon became trapped within a room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents.
With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break contact and exit the house.
A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was brought forward to suppress the enemy; however, due to high walls surrounding the house, it could not fire directly at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then re-entered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger the grenade posed to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house.
Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an un-cleared, darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from a closet in the darkened room.
Exchanging gunfire, Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third floor roof onto the second floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding him in the back and legs, and caused him to fall from the roof.
Acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
Since the Second Battle of Fallujah
Bellavia would remain in the U.S. Army for six years, retiring in 2005. He would co-found Vets for Freedom, serving as their Vice Chairman. In 2007, Bellavia published, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, co-written with John R. Bruning. Today, Bellavia is president of EMPact America.
The Grey Beard Biker proudly salutes Staff Sergeant David Bellavia! Thank you for your service to our country, your bravery and leadership. Myself, and your great country, will always be proud of what you did in the streets of Fallujah!