On his 29th birthday, back in 2004, Staff Sgt. David Bellavia almost single-handedly fought off a nest of insurgents during the second Battle of Fallujah, in Iraq.
Later this month, he’s set to see the Silver Star he received for that action upgraded to a Medal of Honor, which would make him one of now seven Operation Iraqi Freedom Medals of Honor, all which have been awarded posthumously to date.
The White House began reaching out to Bellavia’s friends about attending his ceremony this week, as first reported by The American Legion’s Burn Pit blog, and confirmed to Army Times by another individual familiar with the effort to upgrade Bellavia’s award, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Two Army spokespeople declined to confirm the upcoming award. Per protocol, the White House is the first office to make Medal of Honor announcements.
His experiences in Fallujah inspired his 2008 memoir “House to House.”
His actions date back to Nov. 10, 2004, when the squad leader with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, and his platoon set out to clear a block of buildings that had served as firing positions for jihadists during the battle.
Upon entering the 10th building, they were set upon by insurgents. Bellavia, carrying an M249 squad automatic weapon, briefly retreated outside to call in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle for back-up, then went back in and began clearing the building room by room.
He shot and killed four insurgents and wounded several others, before going hand-to-hand with one.
“Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position,” according to the narrative from his Silver Star citation. “The wounded jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist’s throat.”
Back-up arrived within minutes, but Bellavia’s men were ordered to get out of the building to make way for close air support.
Bellavia’s is one of less than 100 valor awards to be upgraded after a 2016 Defense Department review of more than 1,300 Global War on Terror combat-earned awards.
He left the Army in 2005, but in the years since, supporters have mounted a campaign to get that Silver Star upgraded, an effort support by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine Corps veteran and then a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
An announcement from the White House is expected within the week, the individual told Army Times.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.