Former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia awarded Medal of Honor for heroism in Iraq
WASHINGTON, DC — In 2004, 1st Infantry Division Staff Sgt. David Bellavia saved the lives of his entire squad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, President Donald Trump awarded him the Medal of Honor for his heroic acts in a ceremony at the White House.
According to the Army, Sgt. Bellavia was born in 1975 in Buffalo, New York. The son of a successful dentist and the youngest of four boys, Bellavia grew up in western New York. Following his high school graduation in 1994, Bellavia studied biology and theater before turning to the military, enlisting in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in 1999.
After the terror attacks on 9/11, Bellavia felt his country needed him and remained in the infantry despite being eligible for a deferment. That sense of duty had been ingrained in Bellavia since he was a child by his grandfather, Joseph Brunacini, who served in the Army during the Normandy Campaign in World War II and earned a Bronze Star for his valor.
Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia was a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. Their mission on the night of Nov. 10, 2004, was to clear a block of 12 buildings, where it was thought six or more insurgents had taken shelter.
That night, Bellavia single-handedly saved an entire squad, risking his own life to allow his fellow Soldiers to break contact and reorganize when trapped by overwhelming insurgent fire. He then voluntarily entered and cleared an insurgent strong point, killing four and seriously wounding another. His actions stand as a testament to those who put everything on the line as they do the grim work required to keep each other safe and alive on the battlefield.
Bellavia left the Army in August 2005 and cofounded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization that sought to separate politics from the warriors who fight in the field. Their membership consisted of tens of thousands of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bellavia returned to Iraq as an embedded reporter in 2006 and 2008 where he covered the heavy fighting in Ramadi, Fallujah and Diyala Province. In 2007, he wrote a book, House to House, detailing his experiences in Fallujah. He also had several articles appear in national publications and made appearances as a guest on cable news networks. Bellavia currently is a successful business owner and a loyal Buffalo area sports fan.
Bellavia’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, New York State’s Conspicuous Service Cross, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, Driver and Mechanics Badge and the NATO Medal. He was inducted into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005.
Staff Sgt. Bellavia currently resides in western New York and has three children.