Former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first living recipient from the Iraq War to receive the Medal of Honor, was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes Wednesday.
“Combatants bear witness to all aspects of the human condition,” Bellavia said during the ceremony. “It reveals the darkest parts of the human soul, while residing side by side with the most exalted characteristics: nobility, honor, valor, and God’s grace.”
Bellavia was nominated for the Medal of Honor in 2005 for his service saving an infantry squad and clearing a house of insurgents during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. But the award was ultimately moved down to a Silver Star, Bellavia’s former commander told reporters Tuesday.
After a Defense Department-wide review of Global War on Terror valor awards, Bellavia was notified by President Donald Trump he was receiving an upgrade. Trump presented Bellavia with the military’s highest award for valor Tuesday at the White House.
During Bellavia’s speech Wednesday, he shared the names of stories of the men he served with in Iraq, including Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Falkenburg who died in a direct-fire attack, and Capt. Sean Sims who died during a small-arms fire during a mission to clear buildings.
“I am complete having experienced that kind of sacrifice with my fellow men at arms, and those who died, who gave their lives for me,” Bellavia said. “They gave their lives for you, and countless citizens who will never know them.”
Bellavia said that threats against the U.S. such as North Korea, Iran, and al Qaeda aren’t going anywhere, and cautioned against starting a war again the U.S. if they don’t want someone else to raise their children.
“We will not be intimidated. We will not back down,” Bellavia said. “We’ve seen war. We don’t want war, but if you want a war with the United States of America, there is one thing I can promise you, so help me God: someone else will raise your sons and daughters.”
Watch Bellavia’s speech, starting at the 28:15 mark.