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Medal of Honor

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 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 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.

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 13, 2019 - 2:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles F. Rand, Medal of Honor, civil war.
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David Bellavia will not become on June 25 the first Batavia resident to receive the Medal of Honor. That distinction goes to Charles Franklin Rand, who is also considered the first volunteer to sign up to fight in the Civil War.

In this video, Ryan Duffy, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, tells us about Rand.

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 7, 2019 - 6:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, notify, batavia, veterans, Medal of Honor.

davidbellavia_presser.jpg

When President Donald Trump drapes the Medal of Honor -- our nation's highest honor -- around David Bellavia on June 25, the Batavia resident will become the lone living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the honor.

Bellavia, who co-hosts a news talk show on WBEN, wasn't available for comment today. 

Bellavia is already a Silver Star recipient for his single-handed battle against a nest of insurgents during the Second Battle of Fallujah. 

He's also received the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross.

The Batavian will cover the press conference in Buffalo next week and the award ceremony at the White House on June 25 at the invitation of Bellavia.

Photo: File photo from 2011 when Bellavia announced his first congressional campaign.

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