Trump re­vives top award for Iraq War

Liv­ing vet to get Medal of Honor

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

Re­tired Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will be­come the first liv­ing Iraq War vet­eran to re­ceive the Con­gres­sional Medal of Honor, the White House an­nounced Mon­day in an ac­tion that many con­sider to be right­ing a wrong from a war that be­came un­pop­u­lar with lib­er­als.

Pres­i­dent Trump will award the medal to Sgt. Bellavia, 43, at a White House cer­e­mony June 25 for “con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry” dur­ing some of the dead­li­est fighting in the sec­ond Bat­tle of Fal­lu­jah in 2004. He killed five in­sur­gents in a house and saved the lives of his squad.

“Never in my life had I seen any­thing like that,” Sgt. Bellavia said later of the fighting.

Sgt. Bellavia will be the sixth sol­dier to re­ceive the na­tion’s high­est mil­i­tary honor for com­bat in Iraq. All five pre­vi­ous medals were awarded posthu­mously.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who or­dered the in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003, awarded four Medals of Honor from that war. Pres­i­dent Trump has awarded one, but Pres­i­dent Obama didn’t award any to Iraq ser­vice mem­bers, liv­ing or dead, dur­ing his eight years in of­fice.

Even Mr. Trump has taken is­sue with the Iraq War while pay­ing trib­ute in of­fice to the brav­ery of those who served. Last year, he called Mr. Bush’s de­ci­sion to start a war in the Mid­dle East “the worst sin­gle mis­take ever made in the his­tory of our coun­try.”

“Obama may have got­ten [U.S. sol­diers] out wrong [from Iraq], but go­ing in is, to me, the big­gest sin­gle mis­take made in the his­tory of our coun­try,” he told The Hill.

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and a Ma­rine vet­eran, crit­i­cized the Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions for fail­ing to ad­e­quately rec­og­nize com­bat brav­ery with the Medal of Honor. In 2015, he wrote to Mr. Obama about “in­con­sis­tent cri­te­ria” for award­ing the medal.

Obama De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said in 2010 that fewer medals were be­ing awarded be­cause mod­ern war­fare of­ten is waged at a dis­tance and “there’s less hand-to-hand or in-close com­bat than there has been in pre­vi­ous wars.”

That clearly wasn’t the case with Sgt. Bellavia, a squad leader who ex­posed him­self to en­emy fire as he de­fended his sol­diers on Nov. 10, 2004 — his 29th birth­day.

His squad was with Marines fac­ing up to 3,000 in­sur­gents in Fal­lu­jah, and 3rd Pla­toon, A Com­pany mem­bers un­suc­cess­fully searched nine build­ings before en­coun­ter­ing heavy gun­fire from a 10th house.

The White House said Sgt. Bellavia used his M249 squad au­to­matic weapon to sup­press and counter the in­sur­gent at­tack, al­low­ing other trapped U.S. ser­vice mem­bers to es­cape the house. When the pla­toon be­gan tak­ing fire from in­sur­gents on the rooftop, Sgt. Bellavia called for an M2 Bradley Fighting Ve­hi­cle to pro­vide sup­press­ing fire and he reen­tered the house.

He fought his way up three floors as in­sur­gents fired rock­et­pro­pelled grenades at him. He killed one in­sur­gent and wounded an­other, who then ran to an­other part of the house.

“Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon en­gaged by an­other in­sur­gent rush­ing down the stairs when the pre­vi­ously wounded in­sur­gent re-emerged to en­gage him as well,” the White House said. He returned fire, killing both at­tack­ers.

He then took en­emy fire from an in­sur­gent who ap­peared from a closet across the room. Sgt. Bellavia pur­sued him up the stairs and killed him.

“Soon there­after, he moved to the roof where he en­gaged and wounded a fifth in­sur­gent, who fell from the roof of the building,” the White House said. He killed one of the in­sur­gents with his knife in hand-to-hand fighting.

“That re­mark­able day, thenStaff Sergeant Bellavia rescued an en­tire squad, cleared an in­sur­gent strong­point, and saved many mem­bers of his pla­toon from im­mi­nent threat,” the White House said.

Sgt. Bellavia, now a ra­dio host in Buf­falo, New York, was pre­vi­ously awarded the Sil­ver Star and will have that honor up­graded. On his ra­dio pro­gram, he called the an­nounce­ment by the White House “hum­bling.”

“I’m go­ing to just think about the guys we’ve lost the most. … Their fam­i­lies are go­ing to be there to rep­re­sent their sons and, you know, we’re hop­ing that the pres­i­dent rec­og­nizes just

“Iraq vet­er­ans have not had a liv­ing re­cip­i­ent and this is the first one … the nar­ra­tive has been writ­ten on the Iraq War, but there are a lot of men and women who did out­stand­ing work and did it be­cause it needed to be done and we didn’t vote to go to the war, but we fought and we’re very proud of our fight.”

— David Bellavia, re­tired Army staff sergeant

ev­ery­one that did so much,” he said.

“Iraq vet­er­ans have not had a liv­ing re­cip­i­ent, and this is the first one. … The nar­ra­tive has been writ­ten on the Iraq War, but there are a lot of men and women who did out­stand­ing work and did it be­cause it needed to be done, and we didn’t vote to go to the war, but we fought and we’re very proud of our fight.”

Ra­dio col­league Troy Bouham­mer called the honor long over­due.

“It took 15 years and a forced re­view of all medals of valor for Dave to fi­nally be rec­og­nized for his ac­tions, and he will be the only liv­ing re­cip­i­ent of this medal for the War in Iraq,” Mr. Bouham­mer said on his web­site. “Let that sink in for a mo­ment … a war that saw hun­dreds of thou­sands of war fight­ers de­ployed from 2003 un­til tech­ni­cally 2011 (even though we still have sol­diers there), and he will be the only liv­ing per­son from all of those years to have this medal hung around his neck.”

Act­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Patrick M. Shana­han said Sgt. Bellavia “ex­hib­ited re­mark­able courage” in Fal­lu­jah.

“His ac­tions serve as an in­spi­ra­tion to all Amer­i­cans,” Mr. Shana­han tweeted. “This month, he will de­servedly be­come the first liv­ing Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent of the Iraq War. He serves as a sym­bol of the brav­ery and self­less­ness of his gen­er­a­tion of war vet­er­ans.”

A na­tive of Water­port, New York, Sgt. Bellavia en­listed in the Army in July 1999 and was de­ployed in Kosovo. Af­ter his ser­vice in Iraq, he left ac­tive duty in 2005, and co-founded Vets for Free­dom, a con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy organizati­on.

In 2007, he wrote a book ti­tled “House to House: An Epic Mem­oir of War.” He also ran for Congress un­suc­cess­fully in 2012.

He will be­come the 3,469th Amer­i­can to re­ceive the Medal of Honor.

The stan­dards for re­ceiv­ing the award state that a ser­vice mem­ber must have “dis­tin­guished him­self con­spic­u­ously by gal­lantry and in­tre­pid­ity at the risk of his life above and be­yond the call of duty.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FOR GAL­LANTRY: The Medal of Honor will be be­stowed on the sixth Iraq War vet­eran — and the first one who is still liv­ing.

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