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David Bellavia

July 9, 2019 - 12:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, notify, NY-27.

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Before the public learned David Bellavia would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Iraq War in Fallujah, the Batavia resident was on the short list of possible candidates for the NY-27, even in a possible primary challenge to Rep. Chris Collins.

After the award was announced, when the topic came up, Bellavia demurred. He expressed concern that entering the political fray could tarnish the medal. He said he wanted to serve his country and the best way to do that might be helping the Army recruit new soldiers.

His former political consultant, Michael Caputo, thinks Bellavia needs to hear loud and clear from the citizens of the NY-27 that the best way for the Iraq War veteran to serve his country is as a member of Congress.

Today, Caputo, along with the help of seven political leaders in all seven counties of the district, launched a "Draft Bellavia Campaign," aimed at demonstrating to Bellavia that the people of the district do want him to serve in Congress and it puts in place an organization to support a campaign -- and a list of potential donors -- so that when and if Bellavia does decide to run, he's ready to go.

"We’re at a point in this country here where we need heroes," Caputo said. "When I look around Congress and Washington, I see very few heroes. We have in David Bellavia right here in Western New York -- a hero -- and I think we need to look at our own hero and tell him we want him to run for Congress if he wants to.

"At a time when our country needs heroes like never before, and I think everybody realizes, and we have in our midst a bonafide hero, it is our responsibility as a community to step up and elect one for our own heroes, like it is the responsibility of any community to deliver good, honest leadership." 

Caputo hopes Bellavia will make the decision by the end of October, or at least after the holidays.

The Genesee County chair for the Draft Bellavia movement is City Councilman Adam Tabelski.

"I'm joining to encourage David to run because I care deeply about our country and our government," Tabelski said. "Its future will either be shaped by people who are the best we can find or by somebody else, and I think David is an outstanding individual who is among the best we could hope to represent us in Congress."

Bellavia is currently employed by the Army and traveling on behalf of the military. He cannot participate in a political campaign. Caputo said he informed Bellavia of the "Draft Bellavia" effort and Bellavia neither encouraged nor waived off the effort.

Yesterday, Bellavia returned to his radio show on WBEN in Buffalo for one day and when asked about a potential run for Congress, he again expressed concern that a run for office could be misconstrued now that he's won the Medal of Honor.

"I just I have so much reverence for this award," Bellavia said on air. "I know for the longest time what we do on this show is we stir the pot. We, you know, sometimes antagonize and sometimes poke people we disagree with, and I just I don't ever want anyone to say that this award is being used for anything other than promoting what I think is the most important thing for the future of this republic, which is getting young people to make the decision that myself and all of my friends made, and it made our lives better, and that was serving our country in uniform."

When pressed by cohost Tom Bauerle, however, Bellavia said he will serve his country in whatever way he feels compelled to serve.

"I'm not ruling anything out," Bellavia said. "If I feel compelled to serve, you know, I might if I feel compelled to serve in uniform. I'll get back in shape and grab a rifle and go back. You know, if I'm compelled to run for office I might do that, too. But at this point, I'm the property of the U.S. Army and my job is to get out there and share that story and get as many people from all backgrounds to make a decision to put their country before themselves and get that next generation ready for the fight."

Bellavia first ran for Congress in 2011, in the special election to replace Chris Lee after Lee resigned because of a shirtless post he made on Craigslist. While he eventually endorsed Jack Davis in that race, he began by knocking the Erie County GOP political machine that gave GLOW Tom Reynolds, Chris Lee, Jane Corwin, the GOP candidate that year, and eventually Chris Collins (who was county executive in Erie County at the time). 

Kathy Hochul eventually won the election.

He ran again in the GOP primary in 2012, losing to Chris Collins.

Bellavia has since cited that loss as a reason to believe the people of NY-27 may not want him to run now.

That's another reason Caputo believes Bellavia needs to be convinced there is a strong grassroots effort to back a Bellavia campaign.

The effort includes a website, DraftBellavia.com.

"Our goal is to get 10,000 supporters organized by county all within the boundaries of the district," Caputo said. "We’re about to put up a device on the website to provide an opportunity to send an email to David to give him special encouragement, saying why you back David, what inspires you to do so. That's the kind of input a draft candidate needs. He needs to know how the community feels." 

A big factor in Bellavia's decision, Caputo acknowledged, however, is what Collins decides to do. Publically, Collins, who is under federal indictment on insider trading charges, hasn't committed to a reelection campaign. He is going to face at least one primary challenger -- Chris Jacobs -- and Caputo said Collins and Bellavia are friends. He doesn't believe Bellavia will want to run if Collins is determined to have his own name on the primary ballot.

President Donald Trump could have some say in the race and Caputo, who is friends with Trump and was the one who first introduced Collins to Trump, said Trump will be watching developments in the NY-27 closely. He may or may not weigh in with his own wishes at some point.

Another political factor to be weighed, Caputo said, is redistricting after the 2020 census. New York could lose another Congressional seat. The NY-27 as we know it could become far less of a conservative district if it takes in more of Buffalo or Rochester, or stay red if it picks up more of the Southern Tier.

"David is the best candidate of all those considering running for the NY-27 that preserves the district if the redistricting ax handle falls in Albany," Caputo said. "The NY-27 is less likely to be taken from a Medal of Honor recipient. The voters of the NY-27 have a rare opportunity to select the only Republican candidate who can repel a redistricting raiding party."

As for what kind of candidate and congressman Bellavia might be, Caputo said he believes Bellavia could be the kind of leader that helps heal some of the divisions in the country. While Bellavia has supported the president, his Hall of Heroes speech -- a big hit with conservatives that has drawn no fire from progressives -- was patriotic without being nationalist, Caputo acknowledged. It was anti-war while promising to rain destruction on any nations that attack the United States, and standing before the Army's top brass, Bellavia stood strong for loyalty, equality, and a free press.

After praising the work of combat journalist Michael Ware, and noting the important role journalists play in telling the story of the men and women who go to war, Bellavia said:

"This entire military is one cohesive dedicated force. And the threats to our nations -- they don't sleep. They're watching our every move. Iran. Russia. China. North Korea. ISIS. Al-Qaeda. They may be watching this right now.

"Our military should not be mistaken for our cable news gabfest show. We don't care what you look like. We don't care who you voted for, who you worship, what you worship, or who you love. It doesn't matter if your dad left you millions when he died or if you knew who your father was. We have been honed into a machine of lethal moving parts that you would be wise to avoid if you know what's good for you.

"We will not be intimidated. We will not back down. We've seen war. We don't want war. But if you want war with the United States of America, there's one thing I can promise you, so help me God, someone else will raise your sons and daughters.

"We fight so our children never have to. We fight for one day when our children and our enemies' children can discuss their differences without fear or loathing."

That tempered conservatism reflects Bellavia's beliefs, Caputo said.

"Most Western New York progressives, who are valuable voices in the discussion, in the public discussion, most of them know David," Caputo said. "Some of them are good friends because David made a point when he returned to Western New York to reach out to progressives he respects.  

"The reflexively anti-conservative progressives might not support him but the open-minded, thinking progressives who have been in conversations with David for years now, understand the kind of person he is. 

"If people approach this honestly, there is an agreement on both sides that we're in trouble as a nation and we need to tone this down and become more united. David is the person who can start that conversation from our side."

Photo: File photo, Bellavia's 2012 campaign kickoff announcement.

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July 3, 2019 - 3:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, batavia, news, Medal of Honor.

Press release:

The City of Batavia congratulates David Bellavia on the Medal of Honor. We are very proud of David for his bravery and heroism, and look forward to honoring him. Stay tuned for future plans.

June 29, 2019 - 10:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, video.
Video Sponsor

My trip to Washington, D.C., to witness David Bellavia receiving the Medal of Honor and be inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon is the highlight of my journalism career.

Yes, it was a great experience to visit the White House (I'll answer the question many people have asked, "Did you meet the president?" No.) and the Pentagon, and it was an honor to see Bellavia receive the Medal of Honor. But in going to these events, what I didn't expect was how meaningful it would be to meet the men who served with Bellavia in Fallujah, Iraq. I got to see firsthand their love for each other and hear their stories and speak to several of them individually.

It was a special honor and pleasure to meet and speak with Colin Fitts, Maj. Joaquin Meno, and Sgt. John Bandy.

On Tuesday night, I was able to attend a party at a private residence in D.C. with the men of Bellavia's platoon. I was there when Meno made a toast to their fallen comrades. And though I took no pictures, made no recording, it's a moment I'll never forget.  

One of the highlights of the trip -- and there many -- was hanging out with Michael Ware, a legendary combat journalist. We spent a lot of time together and he helped me with my coverage. My interview with him figures prominently in this video.

I hope the video gives you a good sense of what took place in Washington over four days and provides you with a better sense of what happened in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004. The video doesn't just cover the main events -- the Medal of Honor ceremony and Hall of Heroes ceremony -- both of which were open to the press; but also the events I attended as a guest of David's while other media were excluded, primarily the reception in the ballroom of the hotel on Monday night and the reception in the White House after the Medal of Honor ceremony.

June 29, 2019 - 10:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, batavia.

This is a complete photo gallery from my attendance of events and ceremonies in Washington, D.C., this week for David Bellavia receiving the Medal of Honor. Some of these photos come from events that no other photojournalist attended.

June 27, 2019 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, Medal of Honor, chris collins, NY-27.
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On Monday, Rep. Chris Collins gave a short floor speech in the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing and honoring David Bellavia on receiving the Medal of Honor. The Batavian asked for and received a video copy of the speech to share with our readers.

Also, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who once represented our area in Congress and knows David as a result, issued the following statement on Twitter

All of New York is proud of the courageous actions of WNY native Staff Sgt. David Bellavia while under fire.

 

His actions saved lives and his Medal of Honor is well deserved.

June 27, 2019 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Emory Upton, batavia, news, David Bellavia, history.

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At the Pentagon yesterday, walking down the hall toward the auditorium where the ceremony was held to induct David Bellavia into the Hall of Heroes, I noticed several Civil War displays, so I immediately started looking for anything related to Gen. Emory Upton. I spotted this small placard.

As I was trying to line up a shot, a Pentagon official walked up behind me and said, "Sir, photography is not authorized in this area of the Pentagon." I said, "But this is Emery Upton -- he's from our hometown; there's a big monument to him ..." the official said, "OK, hurry up."

Batavia is now permanently represented in the Pentagon by Upton, Charles F. Rand, and David Bellavia.

June 26, 2019 - 6:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, news.

 

Video Sponsor

 

David Bellavia, the 43-year-old Batavia resident who yesterday received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump in a ceremony at the White House, today was inducted to the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.

This video is an edited version of a video of the ceremony produced by Department of Defense to provide the highlights of the induction and Bellavia's induction speech.

To view the full DoD recording of the ceremony, click here.

June 26, 2019 - 12:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, news, notify.

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Story by Dylan Smith, editor and publisher of the Tucson Sentinel.
Photos by Howard Owens.

David Bellavia, a Batavia resident, on Tuesday, became the first living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the Medal of Honor, as President Donald Trump presented the award in a ceremony at the White House.

Trump said it was his "privilege to award the highest military honor to an American soldier who demonstrated exceptional courage to protect his men and defend our nation."

Bellavia was recognized for his valor in the Second Battle of Fallujah, a nearly two-month urban combat offensive in late 2004, in which more than 10,000 U.S. troops struggled to gain control of a dense city that had held some 350,000 people, but was then populated mostly by 3-4,000 heavily fortified insurgent forces.

Bellavia, now 43 years old, was a U.S. Army staff sergeant during that battle. On his 29th birthday, Nov. 10, 2004, his platoon was clearing a block of a dozen buildings that were occupied by Iraqi insurgents who were firing at U.S. troops.

"For three days straight, David and his men kicked down doors, searched houses, and destroyed enemy weapons, never knowing where they would find a terrorist lurking next. And there were plenty of them," Trump told a packed White House ceremony.

In presenting the nation's top military honor, Trump noted Bellavia's "extraordinary courage... selfless service... and carrying on the legacy of American valor."

During a house-to-house search, the soldiers of Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, encountered fierce resistance — a not unfamiliar situation for his unit; 37 people from his brigade died that year.

"A very dangerous operation," Trump said Tuesday. "They entered house after house, and secured nine of the buildings. Then came the 10th. That was a tough one. It was a three-story building surrounded by a nine-foot wall. As they entered the house and moved into the living room, two men were behind concrete barricades. They opened fire on David and everybody."

"In the dark of night, shards of glass, brick, and plaster flew into the air, wounding multiple soldiers. The rounds of fire ripped holes into the wall separating the Americans from the terrorists. The wall was ripped to shreds. David knew they had to get out. David thought that they had had it. He leaped into the torrent of bullets and fired back at the enemy without even thinking," the president said.

"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."

From the citation for Bellavia's Silver Star:

At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with an M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street. Jihadists on the roof began firing at the squad, forcing them to take cover in a nearby building. Sergeant Bellavia then went back to the street and called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shell the houses.

After this was done, he decided to reenter the building to determine whether the enemy fighters were still active. Seeing a jihadist loading an RPG launcher, Sergeant Bellavia gunned him down.

A second jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder. A third jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon.

Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man. Sergeant Bellavia then came under fire from the insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing the man.

At that point, a jihadist hiding in a wardrobe in a bedroom jumped out, firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe. As the man leaped over the bed he tripped and Sergeant Bellavia shot him several times, wounding but not killing him.

Another insurgent was yelling from upstairs, and the wounded jihadist escaped the bedroom and ran upstairs. Sergeant Bellavia pursued but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs. The wounded insurgent fired at him but missed. He followed the bloody tracks up the stairs to a room to the left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, sending the wounded jihadist onto the roof.

The insurgent fired his weapon in all directions until he ran out of ammunition. He then started back into the bedroom, which was rapidly filling with smoke. Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position. The wounded jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47.

In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the jihadist's throat. Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade's rescue fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire. Without warning, another insurgent dropped from the third story to the second-story roof.

Sergeant Bellavia fired at him, hitting him in the back and the legs and causing him to fall off the roof, dead. At this point, five members of 3rd Platoon entered the house and took control of the first floor. Before they would finish off the remaining jihadists, however, they were ordered to move out of the area because close air support had been called in by a nearby unit.

"Alone, in the dark, David killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, saving his soldiers and facing down the enemies of civilization," President Trump said at Tuesday's ceremony.

"Here with us today are 32 American service members who fought with David in Iraq, including 12 who were with David on that very, very horrible and dangerous November night."

Also present were eight previous recipients of the Medal of Honor, and five Gold Star families — relatives of Bellavia's brothers in arms who were killed in combat.

Bellavia was born in Albion and lives in Batavia. His father William died last year. His grandfather, Joseph Brunacini, age 99, was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions during the Normandy campaign in World War II, and was watching Tuesday's ceremony via video at his home in Jamestown, N.Y.

"America is blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sergeant Bellavia whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms, and defends our great American flag," Trump 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."

Medal of Honor citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

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 reentered 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 uncleared, 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 leaped 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.

Bellavia, who has hosted a local radio talk show and run for office as a Republican, is the author of "House to House," which recounts his experiences in the Fallujah battle.

He left the Army in 2005, after six years of service. During his yearlong deployment in Iraq, his unit took part in the battles of Najaf, Mosul, Baqubah and Muqdadiyah, as well as the fight for Fallujah.

"Listen, you know I'm not going to pretend to write -- the narrative of the Iraq war is well established -- but the Iraq veteran has nothing to apologize for. The Iraq veteran has served with the same, in the finest traditions of any other generation at war," Bellavia said in an interview with The Batavian earlier this month.

"I can't tell you that looking back and seeing how a lot of people tend to look at the valor of a generation and say well are these good wars or bad wars. Iraq veterans are walking around with chips on their shoulder because they're regarded as part of the bad war, the war of choice, the war that was based on bad intelligence, and you know we're free to think and decide whatever you want," said Bellavia, who co-founded the advocacy group Vets for Freedom after he left the military.

"I think the narrative is written on that. But I would just caution us to not make the veteran feel the weight of that. I don't think it's their responsibility. Ninety-nine percent of these men and women served with honor and distinction and we really shouldn't have to apologize for where our nation sends us to fight."

"You know, I never saw the enemy as people. I think, now, when I have, when you have children, you think you know, obviously, you want your guys, America, the good guys, to be OK. But I also think back to, I don't want the enemy's children to take the road that their dads took. I don't want my kids to be fighting in conflicts with another generation," he said.

"What are the things that we can do, especially when it comes to acknowledging that a lot of people think that war guys, veteran guys are pro-war, that we love this. You know, we're pretty anti-war. I mean, I don't know of any veteran that you've talked to that is like, 'this is the greatest thing in the world,' " he said.

"We're violently anti-war but with the goal, the end state is that we won't do this anymore. I mean, if you would've told me that I would join the Army because my sons and daughter would also get to have this experience, I never would have done it. It's not worth it. You fight so that it stops here and it doesn't continue. And it would be heartbreaking to know that this is going to go on for another 25 years."

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.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Dylan Smith is one of my local online news publishing colleagues. He knew how busy I have been in Washington, D.C., that he volunteered -- without being asked -- and wrote this story for The Batavian.

Top photo: David Bellavia's son, Aiden, examines the Medal of Honor around his father's neck during a reception at the White House following the awards ceremony.

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Bellavia and Michael Ware.

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David Bellavia and longtime friend Michael Caputo.

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Congressman Chris Collins chatting with Michael Caputo.

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Michelle McCulloch, in the white dress, who is from Wyoming County, and her daughters and son-in-law.

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Sgt. John Badger takes a selfie with David Bellavia.

 

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Kelly Ann Conway chats with Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan.

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David Bellavia and Gen. Ken Chrosniak (retired).

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Col. Douglas Walter, Bellavia's second commander in Fallujah, takes a photo in the White House for some fellow guests.

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At the end of the reception, the buffet room was cleared of all guests and David finally had a chance to grab a bite to eat.

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Maj. Joaquin Meno, who was a lieutenant in Iraq, and commander of Bellavia's platoon.

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Military photographer Sgt. Kevin Roy with Bellavia. Roy has arguably been the hardest working man tasked to Medal of Honor support over these four days of ceremonies, events, and tours. His job has been to be at Bellavia's side constantly, taking hundreds of photos all day and then returning to his computer to process the photos before going bed every night.

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Sgt. John Bandy examines Bellavia's Medal of Honor after Bellavia and his guest returned to the hotel.

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Sgt. Jonathan Gibson salutes David Bellavia.

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Lincoln's bust in the White House.

June 25, 2019 - 5:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in joe marm, Medal of Honor, David Bellavia, news, notify.

Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, right, shakes hands with another Medal of Honor recipient, Ret. Col. Walter Joseph Marm Jr. They are at a post-ceremony reception at the White House.

"Joe" Marm served in the Army from 1965 to 1995. On Dec. 19, 1966, he was given the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of la Drang on Nov. 14, 1965 during the Vietnam War.

At the time, he was a second lieutenant and platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division (Airmobile). He is credited with single-handedly destroying an enemy machine gun position and several of its defenders, suffering severe wounds in the process.

For more information about Joe Marm, click here and here.

June 25, 2019 - 4:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, white house, news, notify.

Here's a video of the just-concluded Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House for Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia.

June 25, 2019 - 11:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, news.

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This morning David Bellavia, who will be awarded the Medal Honor in White House ceremony this afternoon, was given a guided tour of the Lincoln Memorial. The tour included access not typically provided to tourists, including a climb up several narrow flights of stairs to the rooftop.

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When Bellavia arrived at the monument, Rochester newsman and author Bob Lonsberry (in Army T-shirt) asked to have his picture taken with him.

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David Bellavia talking with Congressman Duncan Hunter, a former Marine who also fought in Fallujah. Hunter represents a district that covers the eastern part of San Diego County, including El Cajon (my former hometown).

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Assemblyman David DiPietro, one of Bellavia's guests for the ceremony, takes a photo of the Washington Monument.

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Evan and David Bellavia.

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DiPietro and Michael Caputo.

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Bellavia with a pockmark in one of the walls on the roof of the monument. During World War II a 50mm gunner thought he saw something suspicious at the Lincoln Memorial and fired a single shot.

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Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, Bellavia, and Hunter.

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Bellavia talking with Bernhardt.

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Bellavia and Hunter.

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Bellavia with some of the men he served with: Lucas "Doc" Abernathy, Salam Ulzuhairi, Chuck Knapp, Bellavia, and Joe Swanson. Ulzuhairi was the translator for Bellavia's unit in Iraq. He recently became a U.S. citizen.

June 25, 2019 - 12:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, Medal of Honor, batavia.

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This evening, David Bellavia, with his wife and family at his side, was honored in a reception attended by top Army leaders, previous Medal of Honor winners, and many of the men he served with in Iraq.

For the combat veterans in Washington to witness Bellavia receiving the Medal of Honor, it is the first time they've been together as a group since Iraq. The greetings were those of brothers, with great warmth.

Top photo: David Bellavia speaking with Leroy Petry, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008 during Operation Enduring Freedom. Also pictured on the right, Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch, who is from Rochester.

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David Bellavia receives a pin from Sherwood Goldberg, a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army.

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David Bellavia and former CNN correspondent Michael Ware. While a CNN journalist, Ware was embedded with Bellavia's unit in Fallujah and witnessed Bellavia's actions on Nov. 10, 2004.

June 24, 2019 - 5:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, batavia, news, notify.

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Colin Fitts, a retired sergeant first class, says he is alive because of David Bellavia, the Batavia resident who will receive the Medal of Honor tomorrow in a ceremony at the White House.

On Nov. 10, 2004, Fitts and Bellavia and their men walked into an ambush in a house in Fallujah. Five insurgents had barricaded themselves in the house and didn't reveal their positions until after the platoon had entered. The platoon couldn't exit the house without exposing themselves to hostile fire. Bellavia commenced suppression fire allowing the men to escape.

Later, Bellavia reentered the house to try and finish the job because his men were still exposed to hostile fire from the insurgents in the house while they were on the street and single-handedly killed all of the insurgents in the house.

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David Bellavia

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Col. Douglas R. Walter, who was a company commander in Iraq and nominated Bellavia for the Medal of Honor in 2005, along with Maj. Joaquin Meno, who was a lieutenant in Bellavia's unit in Iraq, and Bellavia.

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Michael Ware, a journalist embedded Bellavia's unit, discusses what he witnessed Nov. 10, 2004. Ware entered the house with Bellavia and attempted to film the ensuing battle. Because he didn't have night vision goggles, he lost contact with David and when the house fell silent, Ware exited and said he had lost contact with "Sgt. Bell." Men from Bellavia's unit entered the house and by the time they located Bellavia he had already killed all of the insurgents in the house.

We'll have video from the press conference, along with interviews wiht Walter, Meno, and Fitts later.

June 18, 2019 - 5:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, veterans.

A press release from Senator Rob Ortt (R,C,I,Ref-North Tonawanda):

Today, Western New York lawmakers honored the military service of Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia in the New York State Capitol. Bellavia, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next week by President Trump, was recognized for his accomplishments while serving in the Army.

Senators Rob Ortt, Patrick Gallivan, Mike Ranzenhofer, Chris Jacobs, and Assemblyman Steve Hawley adopted a resolution that was read on the chamber floors, recognizing Batavia resident David Bellavia and his military service.

Bellavia will become the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the nation's highest military decoration.

While serving as a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, a 2004 American offensive on the western Iraqi City of Fallujah, Staff Sgt. Bellavia saved his entire squad when he cleared a housing block of enemy combatants who had pinned down his unit. Once Staff Sgt. Bellavia secured the safety of his squad, he re-engaged with the enemy combatants, reentered the house where enemy fire was located, proceeded to kill four enemy insurgents, and wounded a fifth.

Sen. Rob Ortt (R,C,I,Ref-North Tonawanda) said, “There’s no one more deserving of our nation’s highest military honor than David Bellavia – a true American hero. Because of the utmost bravery and heroism David displayed while leading his unit in Iraq, he saved the lives of those he was tasked with protecting. As Western New Yorkers, we couldn’t be more proud to have him as one of our own. And as Americans, we couldn’t be more grateful for his service.”

Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R,C,I-Elma) said, “Staff Sgt. Bellavia represents the very best of the brave men and women who serve and protect our country. His courageous and heroic actions in the midst of a fierce firefight not only saved the lives of his comrades but make him worthy of our nation’s highest military honor. We thank him for his service and for his steadfast commitment to our veterans and those who serve in the military today.”

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer (R,C,I-Amherst) said, “It is truly an honor to recognize David Bellavia for receiving the nation’s highest military decoration – the Medal of Honor. David’s courage and selfless actions are an example of true heroism. We are truly grateful for his service.” 

Sen. Chris Jacobs (SD-60) said, “David Bellavia’s exploits in the streets of Fallujah are truly awe-inspiring and remind all of us why the American soldier is the strongest in military history and revered by the people he serves. He is an incredibly deserving recipient of the Medal of Honor and I share in the pride his hometown community of Western New York feels.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) said, “Staff Sgt. David Bellavia is a true example of the American courage, bravery and heroics that have forged our great nation and he is beyond deserving of this tremendous honor. His willingness to put the lives and protection of others above himself during the Iraq War’s most intense battle is a priceless act of selflessness to which we should all emulate and, for that, he is an American hero. I am honored to recognize Staff Sgt. Bellavia for his service to our nation and thank him for his sacrifices in protecting our country and its citizens.”

Bellavia will be awarded the Medal of Honor on June 25 at the White House.

June 17, 2019 - 5:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, steve hawley, David Bellavia, Medal of Honor.

Press release:

Coinciding with the 244th Anniversary of the United State Army, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) had the privilege of unanimously passing an Assembly Resolution Thursday in Albany honoring Staff Sergeant David Bellavia for receiving the Medal of Honor. The honor will be presented to him by President Trump on June 25.

Staff Sgt. Bellavia, who was born in Albion and lives in Batavia, will become the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor after bravely rescuing his entire squad who had become trapped during the Battle of Fallujah. He then proceeded to engage the enemy, killing four and wounding a fifth, which ultimately led to the safety of three squads of the Third Platoon.

“Staff Sgt. David Bellavia is a true example of the American courage, bravery and heroics that have forged our great nation and he is beyond deserving of this tremendous honor,” Hawley said.

“His willingness to put the lives and protection of others above himself during the Iraq War’s most intense battle is a priceless act of selflessness to which we should all emulate and, for that, he is an American hero. I am honored to recognize Staff Sgt. Bellavia for his service to our nation and thank him for his sacrifices in protecting our country and its citizens.”

June 11, 2019 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Iraq War, news, notify, video, Medal of Honor.
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Below, selected quotes. For the fuller context of each quote, watch the videos.

Thank you to Western and New York for love and support
David Bellavia opened the press conference acknowledging all of the Western New Yorkers who have contacted him over the past 72 hours and then discussed how the men who served in Vietnam didn't benefit from a warm homecoming, and that many veterans do not get the recognition they deserve.

"I just wish that more Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans, everyone guys at V.A. hospitals. can feel half the love that Western York has given to me, and most importantly. the Gold Star families in Western New York and Rochester. These men and women have given up their sons and daughters and there's really, it's not just Memorial Day, it isn't one day a year for these families; it's every single day. And we still live with that and we still think about them. And you know I think about them, too."

The benefits of military enlistment
"If there's anything that can come out of this, hopefully, young people in Western New York will we'll see their country as more worthy than anything else in their life. We are a very special institution, the United States Army, and I encourage as many people to look at that as an opportunity to better themselves but more importantly better their communities and their country."

The call from the president
Bellavia said he was told in August that he would be receiving a call from a top official in the Department of Defense, though he didn't know why. When the call was repeatedly delayed, he admitted to some frustration

"I really didn't know who that could have been. It could've been Secretary of the Army. It could've been Secretary of Defense. But that senior member of the DoD was very difficult to get on the phone. So no offense to Secretary of the Army; I'm sure he's a busy person. But he can't be that busy because there was a very difficult time to get that individual to allocate time. I had no idea that the senior member of the DoD, he was the senior member of the DoD, being the commander in chief.

"It was pretty humbling. It was pretty life altering.

"I lost my dad a year ago and yesterday would've been his 75th birthday. It was pretty crazy that the White House announcement came on his birthday, but my dad was my hero. I loved him. I spent every day talking to him. When I deployed my dad would, he would type up play-by-play of the Buffalo Bills games as if I had no access to get scores in the Army. He would take the time to write me a six-page letter single-spaced (letters) on every play. I would read these no matter where I was, Kosovo, Germany, or Iraq and we just talked about the Bills no matter how bad the day was, it was about the Bills.

"My dad would always tell me something and I always thought he was just uncool because he's my dad but he'd always say, 'way to go.' He'd say, 'way to go, man.' That's what my dad would say. No one else has ever said that to me in my life because it's not something you would expect anyone to say. But as the whole conversation with the president he's going on, I'm not even listening. I'm just kind of...but at the end of it, he said. 'Good job. David. Way to go, man.' That's what the president said and I haven't heard anyone say that to me but my father and it just brought me right back down to Earth."

On being an Iraq War veteran
Bellavia acknowledged that the Iraq War is a controversial war and that many people believe the United States entered the war because of faulty intelligence.

"Listen, you know I'm not going to pretend to write -- the narrative the Iraq war as well established but the Iraq veteran has nothing to apologize for. The Iraq veteran has served with the same, in the finest traditions of any other generation at war. And, you know, there's a whole lot of men and women who -- Yeah, everything's changed. I have to represent those people because that's what we have to do.

"I can't tell you that looking back and seeing how a lot of people tend to look at the valor of a generation and say well are these good wars or bad wars. Iraq veterans are walking around with chips on their shoulder because they're regarded as part of the bad war the war of choice, the war that was based on bad intelligence and you know we're free to think and decide whatever you want. I think the narrative is written on that. But I would just caution us to not make the veteran feel the weight of that. I don't think it's their responsibility. Ninety-nine percent of these men and women served with honor and distinction and we really shouldn't have to apologize for where our nation sends us to fight."

Thoughts on the battle that led to the Medal of Honor
"When you go through a graveyard and you see someone born and died on the same day, you know, I always see that on a tombstone and think, you know, that's got to be horrible and I just imagined how someone could explain to my son why I chose to do this. I wanted someone to be able to articulate to my kid that it's not that I don't love you, it's that I love these guys, too. We're in this together and that's why it's so important to me to tell as many Gold Star families that if the roles were reversed their sons would be talking to my mom, and their sons would be talking to my kids, and their sons would be saying, 'don't forget what your son did.' "

On veterans and being a veteran
"I happen to believe that veterans make the best neighbors you can have. I think we make great employees. I think we make great teachers. I think we make great friends. 

"I'm forever grateful to the United States Army they gave me purpose and direction they gave my life meaning and value. I'm a better human being because of my service. And I think most of the people that I've served with can all tell you the same thing. And I encourage any man or woman that wants to become an individual in their community to serve the United States military."

On how he's changed since Fallujah; veterans are anti-war (from the interview)
"You know, I never saw the enemy as people. I think, now, when I have, when you have children, you think you know, obviously, you want your guys, America, the good guys, to be OK. But I also think back to, I don't want the enemy's children to take the road that their dads took. I don't want my kids to be fighting in conflicts with another generation. ... What are the things that we can do, especially when it comes to acknowledging that a lot of people think that war guys, veteran guys are pro-war, that we love this. You know, we're pretty anti-war. I mean, I don't know of any veteran that you've talked to that is like, 'this is the greatest thing in the world.'

"We're violently anti-war but with the goal, the end state is that we won't do this anymore. I mean, if you would've told me that I would join the Army because my son and daughters would also get to have this experience, I never would have done it. It's not worth it. You fight so that it stops here and it doesn't continue. And it would be heartbreaking to know that this is going to go on for another 25 years."

We also asked about his political future and he suggested he will not be a candidate for Congress in 2020. He said he believes the Army will keep him busy for the next 18 months to two years with Medal of Honor appearances.

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June 10, 2019 - 5:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, batavia.

The Department of Defense today released this video of Batavia resident David Bellavia discussing the fight with insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, that led to his nomination for a Medal of Honor, which he will receive in a White House ceremony on June 25.

There is also an Army webpage available about Bellavia and the award.

June 10, 2019 - 10:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, notify, batavia.

Official announcement:

On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor to David G. Bellavia for conspicuous gallantry while serving as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army.

Then-Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was clearing a block of houses when his platoon became pinned down. He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle arrived to help suppress the enemy, but it could not fire directly into the house. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia reentered the house, armed with an M16, and assaulted insurgents who were firing rocket-propelled grenades. He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia returned fire, killing both attackers. He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him. Soon thereafter, he moved to the roof where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building. That remarkable day, then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia rescued an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strongpoint, and saved many members of his platoon from imminent threat.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND:

David Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999. After previously serving in Kosovo, he deployed to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division. He was released from duty on August 16, 2005. David now has his own daily radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo, New York. He continues to serve the military and veteran communities through a number of philanthropic organizations.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
THE MEDAL OF HONOR:

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while:

  • engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

August 16, 2018 - 8:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, David Bellavia, news, NY-27, notify.

hawleybellaviageneseo.jpg

The eight men who met with GOP party leaders in Geneseo yesterday to discuss their interest in replacing Chris Collins as the Republican nominee in the 27th Congressional District were met by a group of reporters as they walked into the meeting, including two hopefuls from Batavia, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and Iraq War veteran David Bellavia.

Both Hawley and Bellavia stuck to an upbeat message about serving the district and noting the voters in the 27th are perhaps a little tired of scandal from their representative in Washington.

"We got to bring dignity back," Bellavia said. "These people (in the NY-27) have been through a lot. I mean, it's our second time around."

Bellavia was referring to Rep. Chris Lee, who was accused of posting shirtless pictures of himself on Craigslist while looking for transexual dates, and Rep. Chris Collins, currently under indictment on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI.

"We've got to put that behind us and get a candidate that the people can get behind," Bellavia said. "Vitality is important and the Republican Party needs to bring energy back. You start by registering more Republicans and get more people to join the committees. That's the kind of a model that I'm bringing to the table and that's what I'm proud to represent."

Collins has bowed out of the race for 2018 -- a critical mid-term election for the GOP to try and retain a majority in the House of Representatives -- and now the Republicans are scrambling to figure out a legal way to get Collins off the November ballot, pick a new candidate and get that candidate's campaign up and running. All under the assumption that after the Collins fiasco, the Democrats are coming hard after this seat, fully funding Nate McMurray's effort to switch the 27th from red to blue.

Under the circumstances, Hawley suggested, the voters of the NY-27 are ready for an experienced representative with the maturity to handle the job.

"They've had a long, long road over the past eight to 10 years," Hawley said. "This is about representing people and having a feel for what it is they need and I think what they need is a calm, steady, firm hand and the ability to be able to listen to what their needs, wants and desires."

With a short campaign window, Hawley said he can raise the funds needed for the campaign, and though he can't afford to self-fund, he can make a contribution.

"I am a prolific fundraiser and the vice chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee and I have a healthy amount in my Friends of Steve Hawley account," Hawley said. "Where we should be looking is for small donations and contributions from people who think you would be able to do the job for them. Whether it's 10 dollars, 25 dollars, 50 bucks, that's really what America is all about."

Fundraising will be a challenge, Bellavia said but he also said it's going to take a lot of hard work to win the race.

"It's an 80-day election cycle," Bellavia said. "Everyone's worried about funding. The D Triple C is going to put in a lot of money into this campaign and you've got a guy out there in Grand Island -- who ... he's going to need a real estate agent to be your congressman -- but he's working his tail off. He's a good guy who's out there working hard and it's going to take a lot of elbow grease to be able to defeat him."

Hawley and Bellavia were showing up for kind of a candidates forum with 17 party leaders from the NY-27. This wasn't the formal interview with the eight county chairs nor were any decisions made about who to support as the party's nominee.

Also attending were Erie County Legislator Ed Rath, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, Assemblyman Ray Walter, State Senator Robert Ortt, former gubernatorial candidate and former Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino, and State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer.

Bellavia said the party bosses should pick the right person for the job, not somebody who just wants the title of congressman.

"My whole life has been about service," Bellavia said. "I mean, we were electing a congressman. Why are we doing this? Are we doing this for ourselves? Are we doing this because we're bored? Or are we doing this because it's our time and you know we held the position before but this one's really super juicy? Are we doing this because we want to serve our country? I believe that this country is worthy of any sacrifice and if I'm called to duty I'm going answer that duty you know."

Hawley also said the short election time frame will mean he needs to work hard if he's selected to represent the party but, he said, that isn't any different than what he does every election cycle.

"I have campaigned door-to-door in this Assembly District and before that for the county legislature, door-to-door all of the time," Hawley said. "Last time I didn't have an opponent. I didn't like that. I think people deserve a choice. And even though I had no opponent I still went door-to-door. Some people would say, 'What the heck you're doing here?' And I said, 'I'm here to ask for your support and listen to those questions you might have.' So, whether we've got an opponent or not, whether they're well-financed, whether they're well known, it's all about the people."

Top composite photo: Steve Hawley on the left, and David Bellavia.

Audio and images provided by our news partner, 13WHAM. For their story about the event, click here.

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