Western New York native and Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia is enjoying a break from frequent touring this summer to promote life in the military. But that doesn't necessarily mean he has spent any precious free time thinking about a run for Congress, something many are hoping he'll consider.
Bellavia was a guest of honor Monday, delivering remarks during the openign ceremony of the Tee It Up For The Troops golf fundraiser at Wanakah Country Club in Hamburg. The color guard was provided by the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders of Western New York entered the grounds with the color guard. Many of the golfers in attendance were veterans or family members of veterans.
Bellavia, as part of his remarks, stated that Western New York as a "disproportionately higher" number of people with ties to the military. But why is that so? Even he can't say.
"I don't know what it is about the region, but I'm proud of it. I'm proud to be from it on days like today, when everyone is appreciative," said Bellavia, who grew up in the Orleans County community of Lyndonville and now resides in Batavia. "So many generations came home and weren't thanked like we are today reflexively. It's neat to see Vietnam guys receive the 'thank you' that they really deserved long ago."
After spending several moments meeting with individuals in attendance for the golf outing, Bellavia faced the inevitable question from reporters: has he had any thoughts more recently about running for public office? Bellavia's name has been mentioned as one many would like to see enter the race for the 27th Congressional District. That district is currently represented by Chris Collins.
Bellavia, though, spoke no hints of considering a run for any office, let alone the 27th. He also repeated a point made in past public appearances since receiving the Medal of Honor: serving the community is not limited to being in the military or being a politician.
"I'm going to serve my country," he said. "I feel like I'm being called to serve my country. That's really the most important thing in the world to me."
The way he's serving now is representing the U.S. Army on promotional visits, meeting with young people to suggest military as a potential career path. He's encouraged, meanwhile, by how the general public has received his military peers.
"I go from a gay pride parade to a most rural part of a state that you can imagine, and across the board it's 'go get ISIS,' 'thank you for serving,' Bellavia said. "There's no red or blue area. It's an American thing. It's awesome to see America come together and say 'we support our troops and we think the military is a great option to make our sons and daughters better.'"
Bellavia was presented the Medal of Honor in June for actions taken in November 2004 which saved the lives of his comrades while under hostile fire in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. He is the first living Iraq combat veteran to receive the nation's highest military decoration.