Former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom to receive the Medal of Honor.
President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor to Bellavia on June 25 for conspicuous gallantry, according to a White House press release.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy that can be awarded to an individual serving in the American armed forces.
Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, when he served as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. Bellavia was clearing a block of houses when his platoon was pinned down. He quickly switched an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped and provided cover fire so he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely.
A Bradley Fighting Vehicle arrived to help, but could not fire directly into the house. Armed with an M16, Bellavia re-entered the house and took on insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades. He killed one and wounded another. The wounded insurgent took off for another part of the house. Another joined the wounded insurgent in taking on Bellavia, who returned their fire, killing them both.
An additional insurgent who had been in a closet across the room fired at Bellavia, who chased him up a set of stairs and killed him. Bellavia then pursued and killed another insurgent before moving to the building’s roof, where he wounded a fifth. The fifth insurgent fell from the roof.
“That remarkable day, then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia rescued an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strong point, and saved many members of his platoon from imminent threat,” the White House press release reads.
Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999 and served in Kosovo before deploying to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division. He left active duty in 2005 and has a daily talk show on WBEN in Buffalo, N.Y., He is also the co-founder of Vets for Freedom, a conservative political advocacy organization.