The heroic action of Army Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 earned him one of America’s most coveted military honors, the Medal of Honor, and the Buffalo, New York native made a couple of stops in the area last week on a thank you tour.
Los Alamitos Mayor Warren Kusumoto said at Monday’s council meeting that, “there is no more noble cause” than to fight for your country’s freedom. Kusumoto and Council member Dean Grose were among the honored guests to meet Bellavia at an invitation only reception at the Joint Forces Training Base and later, at an official dinner in Yorba Linda.
Kusumoto attended the meet and greet at the base while he attended the formal dinner, said Grose.
In addition to the JFTB reception, Bellavia had speaking engagements in Yorba Linda and Los Angeles, according to base officials. His whirlwind Southern California visit also included a day at Disneyland, they added.
President Donald Trump, surrounded by military officials and 25 Members of Congress, awarded the Medal of Honor to Bellavia in a June 25 White House ceremony for his bravery and “gallantry” during the Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq.
“We honor you for your extraordinary courage,” President Trump said as he pinned the blue ribboned medal around Bellavia, according to military reports.
Bellavia demonstrated heroism and valor during the battle as he and his platoon were clearing a series of houses in eastern Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury. From February 2004 to February 2005, Bellavia was stationed in Diyala Province Iraq as a squad leader in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
On this fateful night mission (ironically on his 29th birthday), after clearing 11 of the 12 Fallujah homes with no incident, Bellavia’s platoon was surprised by insurgent forces in the last house. At this point, according to an account of the battle printed on a brochure for the event, Bellavia stepped in with extraordinary courage inside the home, moving floor to floor, to eventually allow his platoon to escape into the street.
Bellavia ended up killing four enemy combatants and injuring three others as he worked his way from the first to third floors to accomplish the mission, calling in a Bradley fighting vehicle in the process.
He left the Army in August 2005 and wrote a book, “House to House,” that detailed his experiences in Fallujah. Bellavia has only reportedly established his own nonproifit organization.
According to a press release issued by JFTB, Bellavia stopped by the base on a whirlwind tour that included a stop at the base for a meet and greet with local officials.
Mayor Warren Kusumoto presented a commendation certificate from the City of Los Alamitos to Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. David Bellavia at a reception hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of the United States Army held at the base.
Bellavia, the first living Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal of Honor recipient, is among a highly select group of service members to receive the nation’s highest military honor since the medal was created in 1861. He is only living recipient and the second Army recipient awarded for bravery in the Iraqi conflicts, according to the U.S. Army Center for Military History.
“It was my privilege and honor to recognize and thank a true American hero who is an unabashedly patriotic warfighter,” said Kusumoto. “Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s message of purpose, driven by duty, valor and a deep love of our Nation was inspirational and moving… he embodies the very best of the American spirit and humbly represents the men and women who have sacrificed and served under the Stars and Stripes,” according to the release, which echoed the mayor’s comments at Monday’s meeting.
“When I came to L.A. and New York, I thought I was going to have to fight off protesters and whatnot,” Bellavia told KPCC reporter Libby Denkmann at Disneyland. “None of that’s true. I’m just surrounded by kindness and love and people that are appreciative. And everyone is so respectful and so kind,” he said.
“I want people to just get rid of all of the stigma and the clichés,” Bellavia continued. “We’re healthy as a country and as a people. We might not agree with who holds what office, but our military is beloved, our citizens are appreciative of our freedoms, and I’m seeing that firsthand across the country,” Bellavia was quoted by those who attended the event.