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David Bellavia

October 20, 2019 - 8:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, news.

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Today, Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia issued a statement confirming that he will not seek the NY-27 congressional seat, endings months of speculation in political circles about his plans.

“I am formally announcing I will not run for Congress in the 27th District of New York in the upcoming Special Election. My service to our great community and country is unwavering, but I have a new responsibility to the U.S. Army. The Medal of Honor recognition is providing me with an incredible opportunity to serve at a level not thought possible just a few months ago. I am traveling the country, as an ambassador for Western New York, educating and influencing future soldiers and fellow citizens, as well as training and advising military leadership.
 
"Acting upon my long-standing and sincere desire to run for Congress at this time would require me to set aside pre-existing commitments I have made to my Army, my family, and those with whom I do business. I have carefully considered the needs and advice of party leadership and those closest to me and I am extremely thankful and forever humbled by the overwhelming support from Western New York.
 
"Go Bills! Go Sabres!” 

Bellavia ran for the seat in the 2012 primary and lost to Chris Collins, who resigned office three weeks ago in conjunction with his guilty plea on federal insider trading charges.

Currently, Bellavia is traveling and is unavailable for further comment.

It's expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will call a special election at which point GOP candidates will likely be interviewed by the seven GOP county committee chairs in the district and the chairs will select a candidate for the special election ballot.

That wouldn't preclude any candidate from any party running on a third-party line, as Jack Davis did in 2011 after Chris Lee resigned. Bellavia endorsed Davis in that race and Kathy Hochul beat the handpicked GOP candidate, Jane Corwin.

Assuming there is a special election, likely April 28, in conjunction with the Democratic presidential primary in New York, there would still be a primary election in June and a general election in November 2020.

After Bellavia won the Medal of Honor, political consultant and Trump ally Michael Caputo started a Draft David Bellavia committee in an effort to show Bellavia that he had the support of voters in the district to run and win the seat. Most political observers considered him a shoo-in to win if he ran.

Caputo issued the following statement:

The 27th Congressional District has the luxury of a wealth of qualified Republican candidates. Our draft team thought David was the best one, but only if it matched his aspirations. We respect his decision and wish him the best the world has to offer. We also look forward to seeing what this new chapter brings in his life of service to our nation.

There are potential candidates for the seat who have been waiting on the sidelines for Bellavia to make his decision, including Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.

Hawley issued the following statement:

I have the utmost respect for David and his service to our country. His decision to continue his service as an emissary for the U.S. Army is laudable and honorable. I will continue to weigh my options. I enjoy being an elected representative in Western New York fighting for the values that make our area very special. It’s HOME. 

Mychajliw's statement:

"NY27’s loss is the country’s gain - and I know David will continue to serve our country with honor and excellence in his next role. David deserved the respect and time to make his decision, on his terms, and as I’ve said, I would make a decision once he made his.

One thing I am certain of - with impeachment of President Trump on the line, we cannot let this seat fall into the hands of a pro-choice, Never Trumper who only claims to support the President now that there’s a political promotion on the line. Washington doesn’t need another weak, opportunistic politician - it needs fearless conservatives who will take the fight to the Democrats and stand with President Trump.

Within the next few days, I’ll make a final decision on running in NY-27 to ensure we have a voice that actually fights for conservatives, not one that simply poses as a conservative."

Among the candidates already running is State Sen. Rob Ortt. Here's his statement:

“U.S. Army SSG. David Bellavia is a national hero who will continue to serve our country in a manner that we should all be grateful for. I commend David on his decision to continue representing the Army and for his work founding the Deuce Deuce Relief Fund, and I look forward to working with him in the future to ensure that our veterans are made a priority when returning home from combat. The health and well-being of our veterans are one of the reasons I have chosen to run for Congress, and the need for battle-tested veteran leadership in Washington, D.C. is greater now than ever before.”   

Photo: File photo by Paula Zack of David Bellavia receiving the key to the city from Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski.

October 11, 2019 - 1:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in NYS Veterans Home, veterans, batavia, David Bellavia, news.

Submitted photos and press release:

Medal of Honor recipient David G. Bellavia appeared at the NYS Veterans Home on Thursday, Oct. 10, as part of a wish-granting experience created by the local nonprofit, Senior Wishes.

Bellavia, an Army Staff Sergeant and the first living Iraq War Veteran to receive a U.S. Medal of Honor, spoke to residents, staff and guests, including members of the Combat Vets Association.

His speech was followed by a reception organized by Senior Wishes which included refreshments, and the opportunity for guests to meet with Bellavia, who graciously shared his Medal of Honor, posed for pictures and signed copies of his book.   

The event was planned as part of an introduction of Senior Wishes to the Batavia community, as the program has just expanded from Erie and Niagara counties to also serve residents of Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties.

Established in 2013 by the United Church Home Society (UCHS), Senior Wishes’ mission is to honor and recognize the lifelong contributions of our oldest citizens by granting meaningful wishes that will enhance seniors’ lives.  

According to Wendy Miller Backman, Senior Wishes executive director, “Senior Wishes was created to recognize that our aging seniors still have things they want to do, places they want to go, or people they want to see. We transform those dreams into a reality.”

The program has granted more than 250 wishes in Erie and Niagara counties, and strives to grant more wishes to seniors by expanding into more counties. 

Wish requests may be big or small. Previous wishes have included air travel to visit long-missed family, cheering on a favorite team in person, and revisiting an abandoned hobby.  

Wish recipients must be 65+ and a resident of Western New York with an annual income under $38,000 for a household of one or under $44,000 for a household of two. Permanent residents of care facilities are exempt from the income qualification. Vacations, medical items, household repairs, bill payments and travel outside of the continental United States are excluded.

To learn how to apply for a wish, visit www.seniorwishes.org or call Wendy at 716-508-2121.

October 10, 2019 - 10:13pm

The City of Niagara Falls is honoring David Bellavia at 3 p.m. Saturday with a Key to the City and Bellavia will deliver a talk, "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community."

Duty 1st is offering 50 percent off on tickets for this event to readers of The Batavian. Use this link to purchase the discounted tickets.

Press release:

The public is invited to "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community," a 3 p.m. talk by the Medal of Honor recipient, who will be honored by the Niagara Falls community with a Key to the City. In addition, there will be a full speaking engagement and meet-and-greet.

Since getting the Medal of Honor, Bellavia has had the honor to talk to audiences from children to World War II veterans all around the Country -- he’s talked about patriotism, and service above self and shared laughs and tears with folks along the way. Now, he will finally get to deliver a talk for his friends and neighbors, hosted by the Rapid Theatre in Niagara Falls -- where half the event will be a sit-down Q&A with the audience.

The Oct. 12 event will also serve as a kick-off for a new nonprofit organization created by Bellavia, called Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc., which will benefit soldiers from Bellavia's prior Task Force in Iraq (Task Force 2-2).

General admission tickets are $22 (Deuce-Deuce) at the door – but Batavian readers can get a 50-percent off discount right now by preregistering using promo code Batavian. There are also publicly available deep discounts for military, whether active or VET/retired (75-percent off), and Gold Star families (free) – available at checkout, with no code required.

Tickets are available at DavidBellavia.com or on EventBrite.com – but here’s the custom link with embedded discount code: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/duty-1st-with-david-bellavia-serving-country-and-community-tickets-72099291923?discount=Batavian. If there are any issues, just enter discount code: Batavian.

Staff Sgt. Bellavia also will sign copies of his book "House to House: A Soldier's Memoir," which will be for sale onsite during this event at the Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

Prior video coverage of David Bellavia's Medal of Honor:

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October 6, 2019 - 5:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, sports, batavia, baseball.

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Press release:

Army Staff Sgt. Bellavia of Western New York has been invited to throw out the first pitch at tonight's Washington Nationals baseball game against the the L.A. Dodgers (Oct. 6). The game in D.C. begins at 7:45 p.m. and will be aired on TBS. The two teams are tied at 1-1. 

Shortly after receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House on June 25, Bellavia threw out the first pitch at the Mets/Yankees game on the Fourth of July. 

Coming up
This Saturday, Oct. 12, Bellavia will be honored by the Niagara Falls community with a key to the city and present the talk "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community" at the Rapids Theatre. Tickets to the 3 p.m. event are $22 and will benefit a new nonprofit created by Bellavia called Deuce Deuce Relief Fund.

This inaugural fundraiser and Deuce Deuce benefits soldiers from Bellavia's prior Task Force in Iraq (Task Force 2-2), who may be experiencing hardship or require other assistance. 

Tickets are available online through EventBrite, with a link at DavidBellavia.com.

Photo: Submitted by Duty 1st courtesy the New York Mets. The photo is from the Mets v. Yankees game earlier this year.

UPDATE: Video below courtesy Duty 1st.

September 28, 2019 - 10:18am

Press release:

The public is invited to "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community," a talk by the Medal of Honor recipient at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. The event will kick off with a ceremony as Staff Sgt. Bellavia is honored by the Niagara Falls community with a key to the city.

Following the talk, he will sign copies of his book "House to House: A Soldier's Memoir," which will be for sale onsite during this event at The Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

The will serve as a fundraiser for a new nonprofit organization created by Bellavia, called Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc. The fund benefits soldiers from Bellavia's prior Task Force in Iraq (Task Force 2-2), supporting soldiers and their families who are experiencing hardship or require other assistance.

"Duty 1st with David Bellavia” is Deuce Deuce's inaugural fundraiser and is generously hosted by The Rapids Theatre. General admission tickets are $22 (Deuce-Deuce). Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online through EventBrite, with a link at DavidBellavia.com.

Highly in demand, Bellavia has been speaking around the country throughout the summer, and now his community has an opportunity to hear him speak at the Oct. 12 event.

About David Bellavia

David Bellavia is the only living Iraq veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, which is our country’s highest military honor.

For the June 25 Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, the Western New York community supported Bellavia’s dream of being surrounded by every living member of his Task Force when he received the honor.

More than 750 of his neighbors donated funds to make that dream a reality. Bellavia has said, “The Medal of Honor is for all who served with me in Iraq.”

He served three military campaigns: Kosovo 2003; and Operation Iraqi Freedom I; and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

Bellavia is a graduate of Lyndonville High School in Orleans County and the University of Buffalo. He resides with his family in Western New York.

July 26, 2019 - 9:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, video, batavia.
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David Bellavia visited the Holland Land Office Museum on Wednesday at the request of The Batavian for an exclusive interview to discuss his experience in Washington the week he received the Medal of Honor on June 25 in a ceremony at the White House and was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.

In the interview, we discuss not only his Medal of Honor, but the Medal of Honor received by Charles F. Rand, a Batavia resident often credited with being the first to enlist in the Army as a volunteer at the start of the Civil War. We discussed the "bubble" Bellavia was in during his time in Washington; the time he spent with the men he went to war with in Iraq;the men who didn't come home, most notably Capt. Sean Sims; what it was like on stage in the East Room during the Medal of Honor ceremony; the rush of people around him during the reception after the ceremony; what it means to represent the Army as a Medal of Honor recipient; and why he wanted to be sure to include in the events his friends from Western New York, especially the GLOW counties. Now that he's personally met President Donald Trump, we also asked for his measure of the man. And finally, we discussed his childrens' reaction, especially his sons, to the award.

NOTE AND POSSIBLE CORRECTION:  We have been referring to David Bellavia and Charles Rand, including in this video, as the only two Batavia residents to receive the Medal of Honor. We knew about James E. Cross but the history on Cross, as passed along to us, has been that he was born in Darien and enlisted in Batavia. County Clerk Michael Cianfrini wrote yesterday to suggest that Cross was a resident of Batavia. This morning I did a quick search on ancestry.com and it appears Cross was a resident of Batavia during the 1860 and 1870 censuses. It appears that he enlisted in Elmira. He was discharged with a disability in 1862 and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1898. We'll see if we can find out more.

July 24, 2019 - 4:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, Medal of Honor, batavia, video, notify.

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Today, The Batavian conducted an exclusive interview with Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia at the Holland Land Office Museum.

This photo shows the first time the medal awarded to Bellavia and the medal awarded to Charles F. Rand are in the same room together. Bellavia and Rand are the only two Batavians to have received the Medal of Honor.

Our interview today with Bellavia focused on his experience in Washington, D.C., last month when he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump. David and I discuss some of the observations and insights Bellavia has not discussed yet in other interviews.  

Below, a video we did previously about Charles Rand and our video covering Bellavia's Medal of Honor Week, in case you haven't seen it yet, to prep you for the video interview. I hope to have that edited and later to post tonight sometime, or in the morning, at least.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: When I posted this, I wasn't thinking about the fact that we have the opening of Batavia Downs tonight. Covering that will greatly delay my ability to finish this video. 

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July 24, 2019 - 3:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, batavia, Medal of Honor, news.

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Reader Paula Zack describes herself as an amateur photographer but she did a good job yesterday of capturing in still photos the program yesterday of David Bellavia receiving the Key to the City. We wanted to share them with you.

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July 24, 2019 - 12:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, video.
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In a short ceremony at City Hall, Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia received the Key to the City from Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski.

Following the ceremony, Bellavia met and spoke with every single person who came to the ceremony and stayed for the chance to meet him, shake his hand, take a selfie, and even hold his Medal of Honor.

Following the event, Bellavia participated in a short press conference inside City Hall. That video is below.

July 19, 2019 - 5:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, notify, batavia.

David Bellavia, who received the Medal of Honor on June 25, will receive the Key to the City of Batavia in a homecoming program at 2 p.m., Tuesday.

Bellavia will be honored by city and county officials and will be asked to make a few remarks in a short program in front of City Hall.

Since receiving the Medal of Honor, Bellavia has been on the road almost constantly, traveling to New York City and Los Angeles to make public and media appearances on behalf of the Army.

President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Bellavia during a ceremony at the White House last month. Bellavia is the first living combat veteran from the Iraq War to receive the nation's highest military honor.

The award was presented for his heroic actions, saving the lives of his entire platoon, during the Second Battle of Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, which also happened to be his birthday. Bellavia distinguished himself by taking on a stronghold of insurgents single-handedly, killing four and seriously wounding a fifth.

A brass band is expected to play during the program and local veterans will be attendance to honor Bellavia, a Batavia resident.

The public is invited to the event.

In the event of rain, the program will be moved to the interior of City Centre, just inside the doors of City Hall.

City offices will close temporarily at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Jefferson Avenue will be closed during the program.

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Previously:

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.
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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.

 

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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.

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