David G Bellavia
David was born on the 10th of November, 1975, in Buffalo, New York, and is the youngest of four sons. He grew up in Western New York and went to Lyndonville Central High School and Houghton Academy, graduating in 1994. David then attended Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and the University at Buffalo for Biology and Theater. In June of 1999, he enlisted in the US Army and was assigned to the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion after Basic and job training. He was then faced with the difficult decision of switching occupations, submitting a hardship discharge, or serve a tour in Germany for 36 months unaccompanied, leaving his family behind. Around this time, the terror attacks of 9/11 had happened and David decided that facing the fight was the right thing to do. In fact, his grandfather, Joseph Brunacini, had done the same thing during the Normandy Campaign of World War 2 and his actions had earned him a Bronze Star.
David had deployed with 3rd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, to Kosovo for nine months. They then received orders to deploy directly to Iraq where they remained from February of 2004 to February 2005. It was his actions a little over halfway through his deployment that would initially earn him the Silver Star. The upgraded citation reads:
Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq.
While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Bellavia’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 off 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.
Six months after returning home, David was honorably discharged from the Army and he went on to cofound Vets for Freedom which is an advocacy organization and consisted of thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. He returned to Iraq two more times, in 2006 and in 2008, as an embedded reporter. David co-wrote a book with John R Bruning in 2007 called House to House: An Epic Memoir of War that detailed his experiences in Fallujah. He then went on to run in the Republican primary for the 26th Congressional District in New York in 2008 and ended up dropping out and endorsed the candidate that ended up winning the seat. David went on to run again in 2011 as a third party candidate and again in 2012 for the 27th Congressional District in New York but went on to join NewsRadio 930 WBEN in Buffalo as a late night host in 2013 for a short time and later, in 2016, re-joined the team for a drive time talk show.
As part of the effort to evaluate Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross recipients, David's Silver Star was approved to upgrade to the Medal of Honor. According to David, there had been several phone calls to where he worked trying to reach him regarding the military but he had disregarded the calls thinking they weren't legitimate. Finally, he was told a senior member of the Department of Defense was trying to get a hold of him which turned out to be President Trump. The upgrade was announced publicly in June of 2019 and on the 25th of June, 2019, David received the Medal of Honor from President Trump in a ceremony at the White House. His family was present as well as members of his former platoon and Gold Star family members of the platoon as well. David G Bellavia is the first and only living recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom.