President Donald Trump will award the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia this month, making him the first living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the country’s highest military decoration, the White House said Monday.
The Medal of Honor, given to members of the armed forces for distinguished service and bravery, has previously been awarded to five veterans of the Iraq War — all posthumously.
Bellavia, 43, will receive the award in a June 25 White House ceremony for his service as a squad leader in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. When his squad was pinned down by enemy insurgents, Bellavia provided cover fire that saved the lives of the entire squad, according to the White House.
“He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely,” the White House said in a statement. Bellavia later attacked the house alone with an M16, killing at least four enemy fighters.
In his six years in the U.S. Army, Bellavia also served in Kosovo. He was released from duty in 2005.
In 2018, Bellavia ran as a candidate in the GOP primary for New York’s 27th Congressional District, but withdrew from the race before the election. He’s now a radio host for WBEN in Buffalo, New York.