David Bellavia, former Army Staff Sergeant, will become the first living serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor for his service in the Iraq War.
Bellavia, who survived an ambush during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the face of danger.
According to Time, the Battle of Fallujah in 2004 was one of the bloodiest fights of the Iraq War. After ambushing and killing four American contractors, Iraqi insurgents had seized the city. The goal of the operation was to take control of Fallujah. American, British and Iraqi forces were required to fight door-to-door to push the enemy out of the city. Approximately 12,000 U.S. service members were involved in the operation and 82 were killed.
According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, only four other servicemen have received the Medal of Honor for their actions in the Iraq War, however, they were all awarded posthumously.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bellavia’s Platoon Was Ambushed During Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq
According to a video by Elliot Valdez & Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bogges, which was posted to Twitter by the U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. David Bellavia was celebrating his 29th birthday on November 10, 2004, when his unit was called upon to search an area of houses in Fallujah, Iraq for a group of enemy insurgents.
“So we start the process of methodically going door to door, house to house, looking for something and it wasn’t coming up,” Bellavia said in the video. “Building after building after building, nothing. And then we walked right into an ambush with belt-fed machine guns.”
Bellavia said a round hit the magazine of his rifle and he couldn’t have been in a worse situation. He grabbed a different gun and put down some fire, and that is when realized they had walked into a bunker. When he got a glimpse of the faces of the enemy, he could see the confidence in their eyes. Bellavia emptied his magazine and looked around the house to find everyone was gone. He bolted out of the compound and was grabbed by one of his guys.
“I thought that was my shot,” he said. “I had the enemy. I saw the enemy. And I broke contact. That was one of the lowest moments of my life.”
A fighting vehicle laid down fire on the building, and after regrouping from the initial contact, Bellavia prepared to re-enter the structure. He worked his way through the building and then took a break, leaving one enemy insurgent in the building.
“I walked outside. I just needed a cigarette, which makes no sense whatsoever, but I was just really stressed out,” Bellavia said. “And I was thinking ‘I’m going to smoke a cigarette outside on this patio, my guys are going to come in and we’re going to take out this last guy as a unit because I’ve had too much.’ And as I’m smoking my cigarette, this guy just jumps down.”
Bellavia was away from his weapon, did not have his helmet on, and had a cigarette in his hand, however, the enemy landed poorly and Bellavia was able to get the jump on him. They were then called off to a different location where a bomb landed.
“A crazy day ended and we went on to the next crazy fight, and there were plenty of those for the rest of the time we were in Fallujah.”
2. Bellavia Appeared on the Cover of Time in November 2004
According to his Facebook page, Bellavia was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story titled “Into the Hot Zone” by Michael Ware, a war correspondent and documentary filmmaker, in November 2004. Ware was in Fallujah with Bellavia during much of the action and filmed most of the battle.
“As ugly as it was, it’s been an extraordinary privilege to be the only eyewitness to David Bellavia’s incredible heroism,” Ware told Time.
Ware’s story was used as part of the testimony in Bellavia’s nomination and he will be attending the ceremony where President Donald Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor.
3. David Published a Book Titled ‘House to House: A Soldier’s Memoir’
According to his Facebook page, Bellavia published a memoir, “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War,” co-written with John R. Bruning in 2007.
The book is described on Amazon: “One of the great heroes of the Iraq War, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia captures the brutal action and raw intensity of leading his Third Platoon, Alpha Company, into a lethally choreographed kill zone: the booby-trapped, explosive-laden houses of Fallujah’s militant insurgents.”
According to his website, David has released a Medal of Honor Special Edition copy of his book. He intends to donate a percentage of the sales revenue from new edition in support of Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc., which will help benefit soldiers from David’s prior unit in Fallujah.
“Bringing to searing life the terrifying intimacy of hand-to-hand infantry combat, this stunning war memoir features an indelibly drawn cast of characters, not all of whom would make it out alive, as well as the chilling account of the singular courage that earned Bellavia the Medal of Honor: Entering one house alone, he used every weapon at his disposal in the fight of his life against America’s most implacable enemy. Bellavia has written an unforgettable story of triumph, tragedy, and the resilience of the human spirit.”
4. Bellavia Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1999 and Served Until 2005
According to his website, Bellavia was born the youngest of four boys in Buffalo, New York on Nov. 10, 1975.
Bellavia attended Lyndonville Central High School and Houghton Academy. After graduating from high school in 1994, he attended Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, and the University at Buffalo. Bellavia studied biology and theater before enlisting in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in 1999.
After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, Bellavia said felt a duty to our country and chose to stay and fight. He ultimately left the Army in August 2005 and co-founded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization that sought to separate politics from the warriors who fight in the field.
Bellavia currently lives in western New York with his wife, Deanna King, and their three children.
5. People Are Reacting to the News on Social Media
Author Claude Berube said that Bellavia is the “real deal,” a “great American,” and an “all-around good guy.”
Victoria Dillon said that all of Buffalo, New York is proud of Bellavia right now.
One Twitter user called Bellavia a hero and extended congratulations.