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Bellavia receives Medal of Honor for ‘extraordinary courage’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 June 2019 at 8:57 am

‘America is blessed with the heroes and great people, like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag.’ – President Donald Trump

Photos courtesy of Ed Morgan: President Donald Trump applauds David Bellavia after presenting him with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony at the White House. Bellavia is a Lyndonville graduate and continues to live locally.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Nov. 10, 2004, David Bellavia was in Fallujah, Iraq. It was his 29th birthday. The Lyndonville native was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.

His unit was going house to house, checking buildings to see if insurgents were hiding. The first nine houses were empty.

Bellavia checked his 10th house and encountered five insurgents, all hiding in different spots. Bellavia killed four and wounded a fifth.

He fought them by himself, risking his own life, and saving members of his unit who were trapped. Bellavia on Tuesday was presented the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military recognition, during a ceremony at the White House.

“In the dark of night, shards of glass, brick and plaster flew into the air, wounding multiple soldiers,” Trump said during a 25-minute ceremony. “The wall was ripped to shreds. David knew they had to get out. David thought they had had it. He leapt into the torrent of bullets and fired back at the enemy without even thinking. He just took over. David took over. He provided suppressive fire while his men evacuated, rescuing his entire squad at the risk of his own life. Only when his men were all out did David exit the building, but the fighting was far from over. Militants on the roof fired down at them with round after deadly round.”

The president continued, “Knowing that he would face almost certain death, David decided to go back inside the house and make sure that not a single terrorist escaped alive or escaped in any way. He quickly encountered an insurgent who was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at his squad. David once again jumped into danger and killed him before he had a chance to launch that grenade.

“Next, two more insurgents came out of hiding and fired at David. He returned fire, killing them both. Then, a third assailant burst out … wearing a wardrobe, and opened fire. David shot and wounded the man, but he escaped up the stairs. Racing after him, David engaged in hand-to-hand combat and killed him, too. Bleeding and badly wounded, David had single-handedly defeated the forces who had attacked his unit and would have killed them all, had it not been for the bravery of David.”

It wasn’t over. Another insurgent jumped down from the third-story roof. Bellavia shot him and the assailant fell off the balcony.

“Alone in the dark, David killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, saving the soldiers and facing down the enemies of civilization,” Trump said in his speech.

He draped the medal around Bellavia’s neck. The presentation was made in front of 32 service members who served with Bellavia in Iraq, including 12 soldiers who were with him on Nov. 10, 2004.

The president also mentioned that Bellavia’s 99-year-old grandfather in Jamestown served in World War II in Normandy and inspired Bellavia to join the infantry.

“David exemplifies the same warrior ethos that gave his grandfather and all the heroes of Normandy the strength to defeat evil exactly 75 years ago,” Trump said.

Bellavia is the first living veteran from the Iraq War to be presented with the Medal of Honor.

“America is blessed with the heroes and great people, like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag,” the president said.

“David, today we honor your extraordinary courage. We salute your selfless service and we thank you for carrying on the legacy of American valor that has always made our blessed nation the strongest and mightiest anywhere in the world.”

David Bellavia is pictured with his mother Marilyn Bellavia and his friend Charlie Nesbitt at the White House on Tuesday, when Bellavia received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor. Nesbitt of Albion was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War and previously was recognized with the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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