WASHINGTON — A Western New York veteran received the highest honor an American service-member can get.
The White House announced earlier this month that former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will be receiving the Medal of Honor in Washington.
He was honored for his bravery during an operation in Iraq in 2004 where he cleared a house of insurgents that had pinned down his platoon.
President Donald Trump said Bellavia demonstrated exceptional courage to protect his men.
Bellavia is the first living service member from the Iraq war to get the Medal of Honor.
Bellavia says he was first notified in October of last year. He received a phone call saying that an important Department of Defense official wanted to speak with him. That official turned out to be the President.
He says that the honor really belongs to his entire platoon, without whom he could not have made it through his service.
Bellavia told 2 On Your Side's Dave McKinley during an interview that despite finding out about this high honor seven months ago, it is still surreal to him that he’s actually going to receive it.
His schedule is been tightly controlled over the last couple of days and will continue to be for the next several weeks as he embarks on some promotional work for the U.S. Army involving recruitment, among other things, that he says he’s happy to do that and happy to serve in the Army again in that capacity.
After that, Bellavia says he’ll have to explore his options they include perhaps returning to his radio show in Buffalo or in the future, like next year, a possible run for Congress.
The East Room where the ceremony will take place we are told will be at capacity about 250 Guests many of them will be veterans who Bellavia served with in Iraq .
Bellavia and some members of his platoon spoke at a round-table session Monday at the Pentagon to answer questions.
Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY) issued this statement:
“Today, one of Western New York’s own, David Bellavia, will be presented with the prestigious Medal of Honor for his remarkable service in the United States Army during the war in Iraq. His is an extraordinary story. It is one of noble grit in the face of incredible danger and of unselfish, faithful action in defense of his fellow soldiers and this nation. Like generations of military heroes before him, David takes on this honor with humility and deference to others who choose the noble sacrifice of service. We, as a community and country, watch with sincere gratitude as our nation honors his courageous work.”