David Bellavia reflects on being named latest Medal of Honor recipient

"I'm going to serve. All I've ever wanted to do was serve my country."

Mike Baggerman
June 11, 2019 - 12:39 pm

David Bellavia speaks to reporters in Cheektowaga about receiving the Medal of Honor. June 11, 2019 WBEN Photo/Tim Wenger


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WBEN) - Iraq War veteran David Bellavia told reporters on Tuesday that he never expected the amount of love and kindness from the community upon the news that he will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor.

"I think back to the Vietnam generation and when they came home, some of those veterans didn't even want to acknowledge that they served," Bellavia said. "They didn't want to wear their uniforms. A lot of America put the policy of why they were deployed ahead of their valor. It seems that we have learned some of those lessons. I just wish that more Vietnam veterans, Korean War, World War II, guys at VA hospitals, can feel half of the love that Western New York has given to me."

News first leaked that Bellavia would receive the Medal of Honor last Friday and confirmed on Monday when the White House sent out a press release announcing that Bellavia would be presented with the award by President Donald Trump on June 25. Talks first began about Bellavia receiving the Medal of Honor last October, when he was told someone from the Pentagon wanted to speak with him.

"That could have been anything from a talk at an army base to we found a zippo in Fallujah with your name on it and we want it back," Bellavia said. "I didn't think it was anything of any significance at all. Then I was told that a senior member of the DOD wanted to speak to me."

That "senior member" was the Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Trump.

"It was quite humbling," Bellavia said.

Monday's announcement came on what would have been Bellavia's late-father's 75th birthday. When Bellavia spoke with President Trump on the phone, he was reminded of his father because of the conversation.

"My dad would always tell me something and I always thought he was just uncool because he's my dad," Bellavia said. "But he'd always say 'Way to go, man!'. No one else had ever said that to me in my life because it's not something you would expect anyone to say. In my conversation with the president, he's going on and I'm not even listening, but at the end of it he said 'Good job, David. Way to go, man'. I haven't heard anyone say that to me but my father and it brought me right down to earth. It was pretty emotional."

Bellavia, a talk show host at WBEN, said that his life has already changed since being named as a recipient.

"I have to represent (the Iraq veteran) because that's what we have to do," Bellavia said. "I'm going to serve. All I've ever wanted to do was serve my country."

Army background on David Bellavia

Buffalo Catholic Diocese Bishop Richard Malone issued this statement in congratulations to Bellavia:

On behalf of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo, it is with joy and gratitude that Bishop Richard J. Malone offers his congratulations to staff sergeant and WBEN radio host David Bellavia for being the first ever living Iraqi war veteran to receive the Medal of Honor. “We are eternally grateful for David’s service. The greatest honor any person in combat can ever receive is the Medal of Honor, so, way to go David! You are a hero to us who has given so very selflessly to our country." The bishop continued by adding, "It's important we honor our veterans who have done such extraordinary acts of valor and fight for peace and freedom throughout our world."
The Western New York native is set to make history and will become one of seven Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal of Honor recipients. Bellavia earned a Silver Star during the Second Battle of Fallujah, earned a Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross.

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