Medal of Honor Ceremony: Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia

(triumphant music) – [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, accompanied by Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sergeant David G.
Bellavia, United States Army. ("Hail to the Chief") – Ladies and gentlemen, please join me as we mark this ceremony
in a word of prayer. The Lord is my light and my salvation, and whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life, and of whom shall I be afraid. Righteous, just and loving God. Today we gather to honor
the spirit of a warrior, who put others' safety above his own, and ran toward danger,
meeting it face to face. We give thanks for Staff
Sergeant David Bellavia, an example of heroism,
whose spirit shown bright in the darkest hours of battle. His character, commitment and courage were revealed in a moment, but they were forged over
a lifetime by his faith, his family, his friends,
and a disciplined life of selfless devotion to duty. God bless David, his family, and his many comrades
in arms this very day. Let his life, legacy and
indeed this very medal that is placed around his neck be an inspiration for
all to face our fears, and place others over self. I pray these things in Your mighty and most holy and gracious name, amen. – Thank you very much, please. Thank you, Chaplain, very much. It's very beautiful. Today, it's my privilege to
award the highest military honor to an American soldier who
demonstrated exceptional courage to protect his men and defend our nation. Will you please join me in welcoming Staff
Sergeant David Bellavia? David, thank you. (audience cheers) David is the first living recipient to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Iraq War. (audience applauds) We are honored to have with us distinguished leaders of our military. I want to recognize Acting Deputy Secretary
of Defense David Norquist. David, thank you very
much, and congratulations. Acting Secretary of
the Army Ryan McCarthy. Come here, Ryan, let me
just say hello to you. Congratulations.
(audience laughs) Just happened yesterday,
so I have to congratulate. Congratulations. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva, thank you, Paul. Army Chief of Staff General
Mark Milley, hi, Mark. And Sergeant Major of
the Army Daniel Dailey. Thank you, Daniel, very much. Thanks as well to members
of Congress who join us: Representative Liz Cheney, thanks, Liz. Chris Collins, thanks, Chris. Dan Crenshaw, Tom Reed, thank you. Thank you, Tom, I see you over there, Tom. Thank you very much. Joining David for this special ceremony are his wife Deanna and three children, Evan, Ayden, and Vivienne,
along with his mother Marilyn, and his brothers Daniel and Rand. I want to thank you all for being here. A very special day for
you and for all of us. For the nation, actually,
thank you, thank you. (audience applauds) David's father William
passed away in 2017. And though he's no longer with us, we know that today he must
be one of those proud dads. He's looking down upon us from Heaven, and he's very proud of his
son and his son's family. I have to say that, thank you, David. Finally, we are gratified to be joined by eight previous Medal
of Honor recipients. And, I have to tell you, I've got to know just about all of them. You are forever with us. You inspire us. You are truly brave, great people. Thank you very much for being here. (audience applauds) Brave people, thank you. David grew up in Western New York. He was the youngest of four children. As a boy, he would listen to
stories from his grandfather, a World War II veteran,
and hero in his own right, who earned a Bronze Star
in the Normandy campaign. I just came back from
Normandy, that was something. As David remembers, his
grandfather's stories were always vivid with a source of pride. And they were delivered very beautifully. There was a nobility and
purpose in the infantry. And David saw that a very young age. "I wanted to be what my grandfather was," David would often say. "I wanted to be part of
this noble adventure." Is that right? That's a pretty good quote, would you say? Better say "yes,"
otherwise I have a problem. (audience laughs) In 1999, David followed the
example of his grandfather, and joined the United
States Army Infantry. Several months after the September 11th attack on our nation, David deployed, saying goodbye to his
wife and his son, Evan. He served in Germany,
Kosovo, and then in Iraq. 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 and anti-Iraqi forces. 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 November 10th, 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 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 leapt into the torrent of bullets, and fired back at the enemy
without even thinking. The insurgents, he just
took over, David took over. 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. But the fighting was far from over. Militants on the roof fired down at them with round after deadly round. A Bradley Fighting
Vehicle came to the scene to suppress the enemy and drove them further into the building. Knowing that he would
face almost certain death, David decided to go back inside the house and make sure that not a
single terrorist escaped alive, or escaped in any way. He quickly encountered an insurgent who was about to fire a
rocket-propelled grenade at his squad. David once again jumped into danger and killed him before he had a chance to launch that grenade. Next, two more insurgents
came out of hiding and fired at David. He returned fire, killing them both. Then, a third assailant
burst out of a wardrobe, wearing a wardrobe, and opened fire. David shot and wounded the man, but he escaped up the stairs. Racing after him, David
engaged in hand-to-hand combat and killed him too. Bleeding and badly wounded, David had single-handedly defeated the forces who had attacked his unit, and would have killed them all, had it not been for the bravery of David. Just then, yet another
combatant jumped down from the third-story roof and attacked. David shot him, and the
assailant fell off the balcony. Alone, in the dark, David
killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, saving his soldiers and facing down the
enemies of civilization. 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. Please stand, please. (audience applauds) Did he do a good job? If not, you know, it's not too late. (audience laughs) Thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it very much. Also with us are five families of David's brothers-in-arms
who made the supreme sacrifice. To the Gold Star families of Sean Sims, Steven Faulkenberg, Scott Lawson, JC Matteson, and Michael Carlson: Our entire nation expresses our love, loyalty, and everlasting gratitude. Please, stand, please. (audience applauds) Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it, thank you. David often tells young people, "Americans don't want to fight, "but if someone picks a fight
with us, we will always win. "Because we don't fight
for awards or recognition. "We fight for love of our
country, our homeland, "our family, and our unit, "and that's stronger than
anything the enemy has." So, thank you. And thank you to his family very much. Great family, David, thank you. David exemplifies the same warrior ethos that gave his grandfather and
all the heroes of Normandy the strength to defeat
evil exactly 75 years ago. I hear that his grandfather
Joseph is now 99 years old and that today he's watching this ceremony at his home in Jamestown, New York. A lot of people are watching, David. 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. 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. And we're doing better
today than we've ever done. Our country is stronger now, and we're doing better
economically than ever before. We're setting records, and you fought for something
that's really good, and we appreciate it, David. We really appreciate it, thank you. And now I'm very pleased
to ask the military aide to come forward while I present the Congressional Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, please. (audience laughs) – [Aide] 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 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 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 un-cleared, 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 leapt 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. (camera shutters clicking) (audience cheers) – Come on over here, come on up here. (speakers drowned out by cameras clicking) (crowd murmuring) – Chaplain?
– Yes. (audience applauds) – Thank you.
– Thank you, Mr. President. – Hi, thank you. – Say a few words.
– Sure. Please join me. Most Holy God, as we go from this place, let this ceremony be a
reminder of your faithfulness and a challenge to us all, to live a life of courage and honor, placing the needs of others first. Thank you for the life of
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, may his life be an
inspiration to each of us. Lord, as we walk, be
our light and our guide. Bless our nation and keep the lamp of
liberty burning bright. In your most gracious and
Holy Name, I pray, amen. – [Crowd] Amen. – Thank you Chaplain. – [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until the president has
departed the East Room. Thank you.

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