During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia and the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq on Nov. 10, 2004.
During Bellavia’s Medal of Honor ceremony on June 25, 2019, President Donald Trump described the days of fighting in the Iraqi city.
“In November of 2004, after nearly a year of intense enemy combat in Iraq, David led his squad into battle to liberate the city of Fallujah … That was a tough place. This operation was the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War. 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. The third day of battle was Nov. 10, David’s 29th birthday. That night, his squad was tasked with clearing 12 houses occupied by insurgents. A very dangerous operation. They entered house after house, and secured nine of the buildings. Then came the tenth. that was a tough one.”
David G. Bellavia’s Medal of Honor citation continues the story:
“While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sgt. 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 Sgt. Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents.
“With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sgt. 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 Sgt. Bellavia then re-entered 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 Sgt. Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house.
“Staff Sgt. 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 Sgt. Bellavia. Staff Sgt. 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 Sgt. Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him.
“Now on the second floor, Staff Sgt. Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third-floor roof onto the second-floor roof. Staff Sgt. 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 Sgt. Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sgt. 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.”
In attendance at Bellavia’s Medal of Honor ceremony were the Gold Star families of five of his brothers-in-arms: Capt. Sean P. Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. Steven W. Faulkenburg, Staff Sgt. Scott Lawson, Sgt. James C. Matteson, and Sgt. Michael Carlson.
Bellavia wrote about his experiences in House to House: An Epic Memoir of War. During his return to Fallujah in 2006, an encounter with an elderly Iraqi woman prompted him to reflect on his time in the country and the men with whom he served:
“She … reminded me of the importance of why we fight. The soil in Fallujah and all of Iraq has been consecrated with the blood of our dead. And her reverence reminded me of that. Fallujah will never be just another battlefield. This old woman showed me that my time in Fallujah was a life-altering privilege. It was here that we fought for hope. It was here that we fought to end the reign of terror that had descended on the innocents of a city.
“Through it all, I witnessed the best of the human condition — the loyalty, the self-sacrifice, the love that the brotherhood of arms evokes. I realized then that I am complete for having experienced that. Those who died gave their lives for their brothers. They gave their lives for a noble ideal: that freedom from tyranny and oppression is a basic human right. We were the force to do that, and my brothers paid the price.”