Staff Sergeant David Bellavia Recipient of the 2019 Great American Patriot Award

Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War, was the recipient of the 2019 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Great American Patriot Award. Presented annually by Armed Forces Insurance, the Great American Patriot Award honors a candidate in recognition of their exemplary service to the United States.

Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” His actions occurred on November 10, 2004 – his 29th birthday – when his platoon was assigned as part of Operation Phantom Fury to clear a block of 12 buildings from which insurgents were firing on American forces. His actions were first documented in the November 22, 2004, Time Magazine cover story “Into the Hot Zone” by journalist Michael Ware, who was attached with Bellavia’s unit during the fight. Originally awarded with the Silver Star, Bellavia’s commendation was upgraded to the Medal of Honor this summer.

Upon leaving the service in August of 2005 with the rank of staff sergeant, Bellavia cofounded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization that sought to separate politics from the warriors who fight in the field. Its membership consisted of tens of thousands of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bellavia returned to Iraq as an embedded reporter in 2006 and 2008 where he covered the heavy fighting in Ramadi, Fallujah and Diyala Province. In 2007, he wrote a book, House to House, detailing his experiences in Fallujah. A portion of the book’s proceeds go to supporting Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc., which helps benefit soldiers from David's prior unit in Fallujah.

“Armed Forces Insurance takes great pride in recognizing Sgt. David Bellavia as this year’s recipient of the Great American Patriot Award,” Lt Gen Sid Clarke, US Air Force, Retired, Chairman, Armed Forces Insurance said. “David Bellavia’s actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom are without question worthy of praise from a grateful nation. His repeated recognition of his fellow soldiers who served with him during the conflict is admirable. But we also recognize that David’s post-service actions earn even more praise as he continues to work on behalf of other warriors and demonstrates the highest caliber of ethics and selfless dedication.”

Bellavia’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, New York State’s Conspicuous Service Cross, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, Driver and Mechanics Badge and the NATO Medal. He was inducted into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005.

Bellavia joins a prestigious group of previous Great American Patriot Award recipients that includes Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, General Mark Welsh, General Peter Pace, Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta, Admiral William McRaven, General Norton A. Schwartz, Congresswoman Kay Granger and Team Rubicon among others.