By Thomas Brading, Army News ServiceJune 26, 2019
WASHINGTON -- Former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia took his place Wednesday alongside more than 3,460 Medal of Honor recipients currently listed in the Pentagon's most sacred place: the Hall of Heroes.
A day after he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump, his name was enshrined forever in the Hall of Heroes.
Bellavia displayed great bravery while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury during the second battle of Fallujah, Nov. 10, 2004, according to a White House statement.
Defense officials, including David Norquist, acting deputy secretary of Defense; Ryan McCarthy, senior defense official performing duties of the secretary of the Army; and Gen. James McConville, vice chief of staff of the Army, all participated in the dedication ceremony.
Bellavia joins a select group, McCarthy said, for demonstrating the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.
"We are humbled to have Soldiers of this stature among our ranks," McCarthy said.
The Hall of Heroes is intended to celebrate the nation's most honored service members with dignity and respect, Norquist said, adding Bellavia's rightful place is among them.
"Today we reflect on the true meaning of courage, service, and selflessness," Norquist said, and "honor a rare person who embodies them all."
However, Bellavia insisted the honor wasn't just his. On multiple occasions, he dedicated his Medal of Honor to his fellow Soldiers.
"It's for them," he said.
ACTIONS UNDER FIRE
While serving as a squad leader in Fallujah, Bellavia exposed himself to a storm of enemy bullets to save his platoon after they became pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire.
"The Soldiers took causalities" and others were trapped inside, McConville said, adding Bellavia "recognized the danger and took immediate action."
Bellavia, then with A-Company 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, provided suppressive fire so his Soldiers had a chance to slip out of the house. Although he and his Soldiers escaped, the insurgents continued firing a barrage of gunfire.
During the second part of the battle, Bellavia called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle for support, but its 25 mm caliber rounds were unable to penetrate the enemy-controlled building.
"Not knowing how many insurgents were still alive, David reacted with his M16," McConville said.
After assessing the situation, he reentered the darkened building. He knew he had to "destroy the enemy to protect his Soldiers," McConville said. "And that's exactly what he did."
The room was pitch black when he initially killed one insurgent as they were reloading their RPG launcher. Then shortly after, he shot and wounded a second insurgent as they fired at him from the kitchen.
Bellavia acted on "determination and instincts," McConville said. He killed multiple other enemy insurgents in close-combat.
He is credited for saving American Soldiers' lives and clearing an insurgent strongpoint that night, above and beyond the call of duty. He is the first living service member from the war in Iraq to receive the nation's highest honor.
HIS OWN WORDS
"We defend, we avenge, we sacrifice, we bleed, and we are willing to die for this unique creation, the United States of America," Bellavia said, addressing the audience.
With his Medal of Honor on his chest, he continued to honor his fallen brothers during his speech.
"They gave their lives for me, for you, and for the countless citizens who will never know them."
As he concluded his address, he reminded the audience why "we fight."
"We fight so that anyone out there thinking about raising arms against our citizens or our allies realize the futility of attrition against a disciplined, professional, and lethal force built to withstand anything you can dream of throwing at us," he said.
Americans want this kind of country, he said, and stand ready to defend it.