Former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will become the first living veteran of the Iraq war to receive the Medal of Honor. The White House announced June 10 that Bellavia earned the nation’s highest honor for valor in combat while serving in the Battle of Fallujah in November 2004.
Records show that Bellavia and his unit, Third Platoon, A Company, Task Force 2-2, were fighting alongside Marines against a contingent of insurgents that ranged between 1,500 and 3,000 strong.
Bellavia and his comrades soon found themselves under attack by a small cadre of insurgents who were hiding among abandoned houses in the city. Rooting them out would require building-to-building fighting. The attackers were holed up in the ninth building they searched, and began pouring small-arms fire upon the soldiers. Bellavia grabbed a M249 machine gun and counterattacked, allowing members of his platoon to get out of the house. When the enemy fighters began firing upon them from the rooftop, Bellavia saw no choice but to re-enter the building.
Armed with his rifle and some hand grenades, Bellavia fought his way up four flights of stairs in the building. One of the four insurgents he killed as he moved up had been loading a rocket-propelled grenade, which the attacker intended to use on Bellavia’s comrades on the ground outside. His actions essentially saved their lives, according to the official citation.