David Bellavia, platoon leaders discuss Medal of Honor award

today we are honored by the presence of Staff Sergeant David Bellavia but we receive the Medal of Honor from President Trump tomorrow three of the staff sergeant bellavia's bada brothers have join us they are friend your left to right Colonel Douglas Walter major Joaquin Meno and retired sergeant first class calling Fitz journalist Michael where who was embedded with bellavia's platoon in Volusia Iraq has also join us at this time our panelists will provide opening statements beginning with Staff Sergeant Bela beer thank you sir appreciate that I just want to say thank you for for coming out as awkward as this process is to be singled out I just want to say how absolutely grateful I am that attention can be given to the men and women of to to infantry 3rd Brigade 1st ID what we accomplished in that year more importantly the families that lost so many amazing men men that we served with and knew and loved and you know it's really not enough that we honor the fact that we lost people at war for this country but to acknowledge how they died and why they died they died for us they they took a slot they took a mission they did a job I think of captain Shawn Simms and lieutenant and I won sergeant major Stephen Falkenberg sergeant JC Madison I think I Scott Lawson who we lost in 2013 and all the men not only from Fallujah but for that entire night the gentlemen that are here has really they've taken this awkwardness and bringing brought a lot of peace because of how much just love and respect I have for all of them from my company commander who took over this company at a very very difficult time a man who who knew and loved Shawn Simms and took over that job didn't miss a beat and brought us back into the fight on day one the minute he came back into country I should say back into Fallujah lieutenant Ameno who you know you can't ask for you know a lieutenant who not only leads from the front but more importantly who knows where the rounds are coming from because he's standing in front of you the the leaders into two infantry led from the front they died from the front these were not random splashes of misfortune these were men who saw the enemy make contact with the enemy and gave their lives for this country and sergeant first class Colin Fitts this man was shot three times in April of 2004 and any normal sane individual would go home to a life of retirement he came back to duty for Fallujah he came back after being shot by three weapon systems to come back with us for Fallujah many service countries for two more years getting injured again he's one of the bravest human beings I've ever met in my life and finally if you would have told me a combat journalist I considered them to be a hundred percent a nuisance and without any purpose on the battlefield I don't want a babysitter journalist I don't want to be around a journalist I'm a warrior I'm an NCO and I was wrong Michael where is the Ernie Pyle of his generation and I learned a great deal of respect of the role that journalists have on the battlefield without men and women who do this job America will never know what we do it will go unremarked our families would never know our citizens would never know the sacrifice that goes on I never saw that as a soldier and as a civilian I see it and I'm awful grateful for like aware the body of work and what he represents thank you very much good afternoon everyone my name is Colonel Doug Walter I was a captain Walter I was a David bellavia's company commander on two different occasions and I'm just proud to here today to both honor and support an incredible soldier I've been in the Army a long time and I can say Delavan David Bellavia is one of those guys that exemplifies selfless service and sacrifice and it's an honor to be here with him today and it's also an honor to represent all those who were part of this fight both the you know the men sitting at this table and also those men that we lost and you know this award is David's you know for his act of valor but it's also emblematic I think of the service that was given across what was a great infantry company I was just proud to be a part of it thank you good afternoon everyone my name is major walk in meadow I was third Platoon platoon leader during the timeframe of which is uh being gonna be discussed today the main thing I want to say is I'm extremely humbled having worked with such a great with such great great men the youngest of our soldiers at the time I believe was 18 years old did extremely awesome stuff so it extremely humbles me to be able to be here and a very proud moment for the guys and I will say as you starts to hear everybody talk and all the questions been answered you're gonna see you real quickly what it takes for the heart of a soldier for the type of stuff that they did thank you good afternoon ladies and gentlemen I'm sawing first class Pitts retired and I just want to tell y'all that were it not for David Bellavia I wouldn't be sitting here today so I'm extremely humbled and very appreciative for him thank you good afternoon my name is mark aware I was a Time magazine journalist who was embedded with to to the unit the army unit as they went into the Battle of Fallujah that's where I got to know these men and that's where I fell in love with them to be honest and when it's where I saw their love for each other I also had the privilege to to actually witness I'm Medal of Honor moment to see a man perform such an act of Valor that was humbling to behold Thanks thank you well we'll now take questions Megan may be Myers Military Times so I wanted to ask when did you first get the idea or start the process the campaign to update this award and how did that go what what what steps did you have to take and what was that like a silver start to the middle monograph I had nothing to do with that process when did you find out that that that was that was a possibility I never knew anything would wouldn't I receive a Silver Star so when did you when did you at what point did you learn that you were it was possible that your Medal of Honor that your Silver Star was going to be upgraded I learned that my Silver Star was upgrading when I got a call for president I stays shut Moscow all right all right um follow-up did you did you ever find out a reason why it was originally a Silver Star and and a Silver Star is an incredible honor and of itself and honestly I always consider my award just being able to come home well hi I'm Jerry zuransky from the Buffalo News Colonel Walter I believe you nominated Steph Sargent Bellavia for the award so perhaps you could address the process and when you first went down this path when you first proposed and kind of stuff us up until today yes sir so I I was the company commander as we returned from Fallujah and I wrote a lot of awards in that time and for Fallujah for the deployment and and post employment since then so I'm very familiar with that and of initiating you know the process once it goes beyond that I'd have to refer you to probably somebody here to answer those specific questions certainly as I did the interviews and work through the process of writing the war than in the details I understood that for a Medal of Honor it was going to receive a lot of scrutiny so I made sure I asked a lot of questions and wrote as many details as I could and and then I put it into the system and I guess obviously you want a lot of scrutiny the medal of honor so however long it took you know I'm not sure why or how or what the reasoning was that that was it was looked at again I'm glad that it was and I think it demonstrates at least in this case the system works when did you first put it into the system sure I was probably January of 2005 so we returned from Fallujah in late November 2004 and so over the next couple of weeks and months you know I did all the interviews and I tried to document the events you know as they happen interviewing every member of the platoon and so on and then submitted it i would guess january possibly February of 2005 at the latest okay great thank you Christine along with Breitbart news mr. ware you mentioned the Medal of Honor moment and what witnessing no that was like huge can you talk about that moment in key from your perspective yes [Applause] essentially to protect the patern and members of his squad David Bellavia had to go back in to a darkened nightmare of a house where he knew that there was at least five or six suicidal jihad is waiting I was a when he made that decision took it upon himself I watched him summons whatever emotion it was that drive him to go back in there and then I was it was my privilege to go in there with him in fact I filmed it you can hear on the footage David going through the house he can kill the first of the teacher Hardys to have been present at such a moment for such a credible action for me that's just that I know no I Matthew Cox military comm so sorry first class that's you had said that you wouldn't be sitting here without steps are the lobby could you talk a little bit about that certainly sir no I we had been clearing houses all that evening and we came to the tenth house in a block of houses and I cleared my squad cleared the first rooms everything was fine we entered the second room and it was a larger open area like a living room possibly and then we moved into a hallway and immediately upon entering that hallway we were engaged by multiple insurgents and we ended up being pinned down under fire and we could we couldn't get out we couldn't do anything we were stuck there and I had to ask David to uh to help me out and he did that he put himself in the line of that fire and lay down a base of fire overwhelm the enemy long enough for me to get myself and the members of my squad out so just follow-up work so was anybody wounded in that particular part of it I didn't have one young man that was that was wounded it was slightly wounded but he was wounded okay but fortunately thanks to the actions of David Bellavia no one else was wounded and it wasn't very serious and you have to remember these jihadis ambush these men from 6 feet away there were bullets ripping through the walls and that forced the pretend to go back outside and regroup and then David went in by himself and in the dark had to hunt them down my traps painless through the house yeah Thank You chef show bullet ask and purpose for Steph Sargent Bellavia when you got the phone call from President Trump and you learned you'd be the Iraq Wars first living metal Medal of Honor recipient I want to know what was your reaction what went through your head you know I have a great deal of respect for the Iraq war veteran obviously this award I have a tremendous amount of reverence for the award itself but you know the Iraq war veteran has served and surpassed at times the highest standards of American warrior tradition amongst any generation we have nothing to apologize for we serve our country we do what our leaders tell us to do it's you know the narrative on the Iraq war has long been written I'm not here to change anyone's mind I'm here to tell you that there are men and women who have served their country in Iraq and it has made me it is one of the honors of my life to be a part of that veteran and the men and women of to to infantry in particular when you think of of that valor and that sacrifice our brigade combat team lost about 37 people that year we lost four men in Fallujah you know I think about them every day they gave up their tomorrows for us and I think of that generation in the Iraq war and I'm mighty proud to be a part of it talk about what made you decide to single-handedly go back into the house with the jihadists with the prepared traps and the bunker that you were going to single-handedly clear this house well you know to be totally fair Scott Lawson staff sergeant was with with me and the initial part of that clearing this is a stud he's a brave warrior I also took three saw Gunners Tristan Maxfield I took Chris Olli and I took Jim Metcalf we positioned that outside of the house you know what we found out about the house and again Michael where is an embedded journalist who has a completely different job of what he's observing compared to what we're dealing with we're dealing with the threat that's at hand we're dealing with accountability we have to even find out how many people who what they have what they're shooting at us his vantage point is a completely different vantage point than ours but I will tell you that at some point it was a parent now understand there is another situation that's happening in this very neighborhood with captain Sims maybe lieutenant meadow can get into that but captain Sims our company commander who would lose his life days later in a house fight they were dealing with an insurgent that was engaging our squad platoon our Scout platoon I should say and our first platoon and so that fight was ongoing while we were looking for insurgents so they had the priority they were in contact we were not in contact at the time that that firefight was going on air support is theirs they have all the attention they have the problem we meet contact while they're still engaged it's a very chaotic situation but the idea here is is that we got suckered into a secondary door it wasn't the open the front door the front gate we were in the house the first thing we had to do was get out of the house we had to consolidate and then we had to get a headcount and when you've got a dark house you got to make sure you brought all your guys out and so members of the platoon that went to consolidate they really didn't have an idea what my plan and what my thinking process was on paper it seemed like a really good idea and then I walked into situations that were happening in real-time and just have to react to it and that's what I did and luckily luckily my Fitz and Meno and everyone else found out what I was doing because Michael where ran out and told them what I was doing and they immediately came in 30 seconds after they found out what the situation was and David is honestly being humble we need there is cars ring that we've been tracking them all night we've been following evidence of them through the house after house and David certainly knew there wasn't just to go it's under the stairs what he did going back into that nightmare side all those men's lives Staff Sergeant died damn them off with the Washington Post as the first flippin recipient what are your plans what are your intentions what do you see yourself doing in coming years as a recipient and as the first living recipient you know I the army gave me purpose and direction the army gave me meaning I'm forever grateful to the United States Army and I want to be of service to my army I want to bring as many young men and women to join the military as possible look I mean there's a million of five reasons why we're divided in this country I never cared what your skin color was who you worshipped or who you loved if you are willing to get shot at from me from from my buddies I will follow you I will lead you anywhere that is the old does the end of the day this country is worthy of any sacrifice we have a volunteer force that does it every single day and I want to be a service to that army Susan Rose wvn and Buffalo David Bellavia Staff Sergeant some have said many upset that it's harder to live with this medal of honor than it was to earn it what are you preparing for in that respect you know ma'am I really don't I don't have it you know this isn't real until it's around your neck I guess but I could tell you that the one thing here is I've seen men that I haven't seen in 15 years and when I first saw Colonel Walter I don't know I just I I was really blessed to just have leaders that they did so much for me for my family I never doubted how that my mom or dad loved me you know I was lucky enough to have parents that really cared about me and told me how much they loved me my leadership never told me that but my leadership showed me that every single day they trained us they made sure that we were ready for any situation and my leaders Shaun Simpson and and Colonel Walter lieutenant met oh sorry Fitz who took me as a know-nothing corporal and I really taught me everything I knew all the other NCOs sergeant Kentrell what I learned from those men was that we have an accountability to our soldiers and we have to deliver them from every situation it's always them first that's what makes this Lord so awkward is that we're always putting our subordinates first but seeing these guys after 15 years I'm just I just have so much love you know I never thought I'd see love on a battlefield it's it's horrible it's gastly it's ghoulish but you see people doing things for each other that they would never ever do in any other circumstance and it is a sight to see it'll change your life forever and I think we're all better for having seeing that love displayed in combat follow have you been in touch with some of the gold star families the battle brothers that you lost well Colonel Walter everyone has been so helpful in reaching out to these gold star families but we have a captain sims's wife will be here he's bringing his I should say howdy Sims is bringing her son who you know doesn't have a whole lot of memories of his father and this is our responsibility to you know basically acknowledge what kind of man his father was and how we're all better for having known him for having served under him and that that his his dad is as a piece of him his dad is living in him and his dad is living in us and I'm very grateful for the Falkenberg family for the Madison family for the Lawson family for Michael Carlson who we lost in January of 2005 his mother will be here and yeah that means a whole lot to me you can talk to us take us back to that moment when you went into the houses mixed ed bullets were flying all over the place was a pretty horrific situation I've talked to Medal of Honor recipients in the past and a couple of them have said I really didn't think I was going to get out of this I really thought it was the end and some upset I thought of my kids I thought of my wife what was running through your mind you clearly were in a very serious situation you know Sarah a lot of things go through your mind some are very rational some are completely irrational um the first thing you're thinking about is I mean you're scared your life is on the line second thing you think about is you're angry how dare anyone try to hurt us how dare you try to step up against the United States military the purpose of why these insurgents were in the city of Fallujah what fools are represented to the insurgency we wanted to be as tenacious and disciplined and professional as we could at breaking the back of those guys so you're angry you're scared but the other thing is you have people that the day before risked their life to save you you have people the following two days would risk their lives to save you and you have people within 24 hours who are killed in direct fire attacks that are you senior leadership so it's really easy to compartmentalize and do an inventory you know when your squad leader is asking for help I should say when your peer is asking for help and that guy is walking around with a limp and any other normal person should be at Walter Reed or on a golf range somewhere drinking beer but he's with you in Fallujah which has no business to being there it's really easy I mean peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13 but peer pressure can also make you do things you normally wouldn't do it's who your peers are what kind of character what kind of honor your peers are and I was always blessed to have some of the the greatest men I've ever met highest dignity and honor and they're still my friends to this day I thought that was a a real possibility I got to tell you you know Scott Lawson played a huge part in that decision Michael where played a huge part in that decision I looked at Michael where and and I needed someone to just give me some confidence some ability that this is something like that I could do that I could do with Scott that I could do with Olli Metcalf and and Maxfield and at that point in my life a guy from Australia who I could literally and I didn't want anything to do with an embedded reporter that that embedded reporter gave me a lot of confidence that this was a very rational idea stuffs are that you said you hadn't heard about this until the president called you can you tell us where were you when you got that phone call how was the conversation with the president what motions were going through you when you got that news you know I bet someone at my job I had been calling asking saying that they were from the message was you know there's not military people where I work so the message was like totally confusing it was Jay five personnel from the US Army it didn't make any sense whatsoever so I just ignored it and figured it was you know just someone that's pulling a prank or just trying to be obnoxious that the calls got more and more serious they finally tracked me down and they said that a senior member of the DoD you wanted to speak to me and then one day that see remember the DoD was very difficult to get on the phone we had probably four times speak and just they never seem to make time so I just thought nothing of it and then finally we made time and that senior DoD member was the commander in chief and that's when everything was out there I had you know there was always rumors that it was going to put you in for this so we think maybe this could be that but you know 15 years goes by you move on with your life you put the war behind you you focus on your family focus on work and you know my life was a hundred percent perfect without Valor award of any type and again this was just it was very humbling Sir James Hetfield from braking defense sergeant could you so you make this sort of moment of decision where you go back in the house without your whole crew with you could you just walk us through for a few minutes what you encountered in there and some of the descriptions I've heard of the ankle-deep water and it just sounds like a like a haunted Hell house but give me here just walk me through what happened you open that door okay I've never been in that house before the time our whole platoon was in that house but the way that that house was set up when I was first in it was different when I went back into it we had a Bradley Fighting Vehicle suppress it sergeant Cantrell put and Sergeant hooter Sayer put a tremendous amount of fire into that building it wasn't apparent if the walls were maybe too high and the elevation of the cannon wasn't able to properly get into all the windows but we put enough fire into it to make these guys know that we weren't going away and we weren't forgetting about him but the water had ruptured all of the plumbing inside now Fallujah had been abandoned for months so that water was very unpleasant water slick and it was quite you know assaulted your senses but again you're now going through water you start to notice things about the building that you didn't notice before because you weren't paying attention there's a lot of propane there's broken off mirrors everywhere you know sorry Fitz alluded to a makeshift bunker system that they developed and built under the stairwell and again you know the only thing that caused that initial fight was to because these guys had an RPG you know I would have probably I don't know what my decision-making process would have been if they were just holding a cave but that RPG really changed everything because you know they could blow up the building now I've got you know Lawson myself three other guys outside what did these guys gonna walk into you know one of the things about Chris Olli opens up the first door when we get assaulted and he puts that fire down if he gets hit in that doorway we have a totally different fight on our hands now we're repatriating a body or trying to render aid to a guy that's hurt that changes the fight dramatically worn Mesa our sergeant fits his team leader pulls him out of that doorway without doing that oles hit all these probably mortally wounded that was a tremendous amount of fire coming through a door now what do they belt-fed machine guns it was it was a lot of fire coming out a very small entryway and again all these everything changes because things happen here you feel you have the initiative Michael where mentioned how dark that was your night vision is like a cat I you need some loom for it to work you know you you don't know if you're firing at the same individual or if it's a new individual a person gets dropped and then they disappear you know in the movies you know you shoot a bad guy they fall they're gone right these insurgents were were experimenting with some other drugs and whatnot and it was tough it was tough but again specialist o4e and first Platoon engages a target inside of a house joey Seaford and a barreto and our interpreter engage in so wounded by insurgents and engages insurgents when captain Sims is killed lucky or unlucky to two infantry was well rehearsed for this type of fight we'd experienced fighting close quarters all throughout Iraq our task force was in Mosul and your jaw fanned ba Cuba and Mukti daya and everywhere the enemy was we met him head-on and this was just another way to to meet the enemy head-on and injustice or fall you talked me through so you engaged and you think you take out together the RPG and then what happens so I thought I took both guys out I looked down one guy's there one guy's not my back is to a room I find myself in that room I'm keeping my my eye on a door I've got Lawson across the way in the initial room that we were in I have no idea that I told Michael where to stay outside he told me that he was staying outside I'm hearing footsteps all over the place upstairs I'm hearing things your mind is playing tricks with you and I hear footsteps in the house behind Lawson and so I'm you know I'm ready to shoot whoever is behind Lawson and that's Michael where and he's in the house I've never met an embedded reporter that wanted to be in a house fight I've never seen that before I've worked with a lot of embedded reporters all very professional none of them wanted to be in that fight and this guy was in that fight sir Howard I was diggin David in your book you write quite a bit about Deanna and Evan your your wife and son they're clearly in a manner speaking with you in Iraq and so I wanted to ask you what it means to you to now that they're gonna be here to see you receive this honor well uh my family it's very important to me I just lost my father a year ago you know my little boy I mean we're all fathers up here you know how much we love our kids that's not you know anything shocking but our surrogates I should say our subordinates we become surrogate fathers to those those soldiers that they I love them like they're my own I really do and I feel loved like I am the family of my leaders we take care of each other we care about each other it's been 15 years and the loss that we had out there is very real it's very real for those families you know a memorial day is not it's not one day a year this is a real sacrifice it's you know you want to put a reef at Christmastime you want to put a flag up that's beautiful but we're not honoring anyone unless we acknowledge that these men died for us and that they are a very important part of our life and when you have your own kids and you understand that unconditional love that you have for family when you have men and women from all walks of life all different socioeconomic backgrounds all in it together all because you're in it too you will do anything for those guys and those guys will do anything for you and it's a it's a beautiful beautiful experience sir rust rated Washington Examiner Colonel as you were gathering everything that you needed to prepare this report in your mind what was going through your head as you were about to write this report in filing and I think you said January of oh five was it clear immediately that this was gonna be something different than what you'd seen before in your past oh absolutely there was no question about that I mean as we went back and documented many of the things that occurred during this couple of weeks or you know at this point we were kind of looking back over the entire to employment there were many acts of bravery and valor but obviously this was this was a little bit something different you know as SART fits referred to they're dead David saved his life and really saved a life almost an entire squad there's they initially exfiltrated out of that house I felt like the anybody knew the story perhaps better than that anyone cuz I interviewed every single one to make sure we got it right because I did want to make sure that I guess the the award rose to a level but it that it did and so there's no question that that story in particular kind of stood out and you know I guess required a little bit extra for a little more time to make sure we documented it correctly Mami's called australian stop subject kind of like ask you to try to put into words for an audience that isn't an american what this honor means for you i you know this this is my new unit insignia i really believe in my heart that this represents so many different people it represents my entire team in my entire unit and it says that you know we have no idea what veterans are going through we see him at the store you see someone wearing a cap from vietnam or korea wherever they were no no idea what they went through whatsoever and for 15 years people that you know heard about Fallujah heard about ba Cuba they might not know the name of Sean Sims or a Taiwan or Martin Sprayberry or Victor Rosales they might not know Tyler Pruitt they might not know any of the other guys that we lost sergeant Gary Anza sir but you know now they look into this unit they look into what happened what we did this is a snapshot of our year and now they look back and say wow you know there was examples every single day every single day of what America what America what people are sacrificing for this country in our way of life you know we saw commemorated 75 years of d-day and those were not professional soldiers those were people that got six weeks worth of training and they slapped the the Nazis around and this is an all-volunteer force and these men and women are volunteering and I'll tell you what student college debt repayment a dental plan a paycheck there's no reason why a rational person is paying off college to clear a road with IEDs we are not kicking down doors because we want to make sure we get paid on the 1st and the 15th we do that because we love our country we love our army and we love each other and that is what has kept this country and it's what why we're gonna be safe for generations to come okay Colonel if I could ask you to address the you put in the award nomination there has to be some disappointment when you see it come back down graded what goes through your head as you're kind of working through the process there what was there the thought that at the time that that was unfortunate how do you kind of like come to grips with that when you put him in for such a high war well certain I think initially we weren't really sure what what exactly happened – it took a little time for that but I also understood that this is a process that they could take years so I I always felt that there was the opportunity to have it to re-evaluate and relook that and obviously that apparently did happen and you know so regardless of the process you know we're sitting here today you know we're honoring you know a great soldier a great American who did some pretty incredible things and so I'm just grateful for that okay we have time for one more question sir um yeah Steph Steph sergeant a fellow the if you could just uh tell me a little bit more about what you would say to young people today we're considering the military and looking at your example and looking at your history and what they ought to be thinking about before they sign up you know when you look at a dog tag there's some basic information that you put on there and political party isn't part of it um you know all throughout our history we've had people that have descended that have disagreed and we found a way to put everything aside and focus on what's best for this nation and what's best for mission success and the Army represents you know the world's largest adoption agency we don't care if your dad left you millions when he died or if you even knew who your father was you know we are one we're a family and I got to tell you I've had a lot of people I have come into my life that I care deeply about but people that you know for two three years and a deployment people you go to training with or school with and you you go through adversity together and you handle things together that bond and that relationship means everything and you learn so much about people that are different than you you learned so much about people who see the world different than you and you're like look if we can make this happen we can do anything not only do I think as many young people should consider their country worthy of service I think a lot more civilians should see you know how we're able to get things done and maybe learn some examples from our military to be honest with you

  • just watched Michael Ware's documentary on Netflix called 'Only the Dead'. Around 35 minutes you can see David Bellavia's heroic moment. I decided to search Bellavia on Google and came across the news coverage of him earning the Medal of Honor. God bless people like him, and all the brave men & women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, past and present. Never forgotten

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