Bellavia on war experience: "There is human cost. There is sacrifice."

Jun 12, 2019

Following his first public statement about his forthcoming Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, Iraq War veteran David Bellavia spoke one-on-one with WBFO Radio about his pending decoration, putting his memoirs into writing and the qualities he believes makes an ideal citizen.

The White House announced Monday that Bellavia will receive the military's highest decoration possible during a June 25 ceremony. Tuesday, Bellavia spoke publicly about his upcoming event but he had first been notified by President Donald Trump last fall. WBFO asked him how difficult it was to keep that information secret until the White House's formal announcement.

Staff Sergeant David Bellavia in Iraq, 2004.
Credit United States Army

"It was actually kind of easy," he replied. "The more people that you told, the more chances of it not being a secret. The other thing is, if you didn't talk about it, it's like it didn't happen. Psychologically, it was a tool I was using to be like, if I don't ever mention it they'll forget about it and it won't happen."

The decoration, even before it's been presented, has already changed his life, Bellavia admits. The Medal of Honor is being presented to him in recognition of his actions on November 10, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. His platoon was pinned down by enemy gunfire when he went house-to-house, providing cover which allowed his platoon to escape their position safely. He also engaged in one-on-one combat with and killed several insurgents who were firing grenades on his comrades.

He has published his war experiences in a 2007 book, House to House, which he states does not glorify war.

"There is a human cost and there is sacrifice," he said. "And we are scared and there's nothing wrong with being scared. Do you embrace it? Do you use it or do you allow yourself to be victimized by it? What are you fighting for? What do your men mean? What does your country mean?

"You almost do it as a cathartic exercise to get it out and say 'it's over there, go read the book.' Now, you have to live this for the rest of your day. Had I known this was the future, I probably would have revisited all those choices."

His entry into the United States Army came under an unusual circumstance. As a theater student in college, Bellavia's fascination for the works of stage musical composer Stephen Sondheim inspired him to create and produce his own musical revue paying tribute to Sondheim. Except, Sondheim felt his work was being infringed and pursued legal action. To settle, Bellavia agreed to cease his revue and pay a thousand dollars. To raise that money, he enlisted in the Army.

His theatrical passion, along with the passion for football which he recalled during his Tuesday news conference, revealed Bellavia to be a more well-rounded individual. Additionally, he is a former congressional candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Chris Collins in a 2012 primary.

WBFO asked Bellavia what he believes makes an ideal citizen.

"I think it's just anyone who sees the country as greater than themselves, anyone who sees their community as more important than the individual," he replied. "What makes a good citizen is who sees themselves as a part of the team. You don't have to do it with a rifle and a grenade. You can do it with an extra two hours at a library, or a church or wherever you worship. It's really about seeing yourself as not the one who needs to eat first."