Iraq War’s First Living MOH Recipient

| June 10, 2019

The Army Times and other outlets are reporting that Staff Sergeant David Bellavia US Army is having his previous award of the Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

This will make SSG Bellavia the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the Iraq War.

On his 29th birthday, back in 2004, Staff Sgt. David Bellavia almost single-handedly fought off a nest of insurgents during the second Battle of Fallujah, in Iraq.

Later this month, he’s set to see the Silver Star he received for that action upgraded to a Medal of Honor, which would make him one of now seven Operation Iraqi Freedom Medals of Honor, all which have been awarded posthumously to date.

The White House began reaching out to Bellavia’s friends about attending his ceremony this week, as first reported by The American Legion’s Burn Pit blog, and confirmed to Army Times by another individual familiar with the effort to upgrade Bellavia’s award, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Congratulations to SSG Bellavia on being recognized with the highest award of valor this country can bestow upon a military member.

Category: Army, Iraq, Valor

Comments (22)

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  1. Twist says:

    Small correction… first “living” MOH recipient from the Iraq War

    I loved reading his book “House to House”. I was also really excited when he commented here at TAH a few times years ago

    • Steve Balm says:

      Thanks, I made the correction.

      I simply forgot to hit the “Do What I Meant to Say” button.

  2. Andy11M says:

    SFC Smith, a combat engineer with the 3ID received the Medal of Honor back in 2003 for his actions during the battle of the airport in Baghdad.
    I was wondering if they were ever going to get around to upgrading SSG Bellavias Silver Star. I was in C 2/2, he was in A 2/2. I didn’t know him personally, but I always heard good things about him.

  3. Sparks says:

    Well deserved and indeed earned.

  4. Mason says:

    Task and Purpose has a little more detail.

    What I really want explained to me is what dumbass with stars on his collar read about him single-handedly saving an entire squad and then clearing a building alone, taking out a whole bunch of bad guys with his rifle and his freaking hands and thought that a Silver Star was sufficient? Good lord. Who can read that SS citation ( and think that this is not one of the most badass soldiers that ever lived?

  5. The sole issue I have with this award is that Bellavia has been publicly campaigning for it for years. I find his pursuit of the award distasteful.

    I also would note that most upgrades to the Medal are from individuals awarded the DSC or Navy Cross. A jump of two levels is unusual.

  6. Martinjmpr says:

    If you want to see footage of Bellavia in action, watch the Netflix documentary “Only the Dead.” It’s a harsh and unrelenting journal of an Australian correspondent of his time in Iraq. He was there when Bellavia and his outfit were clearing houses in Fallujah in 2004.

    I just watched it this weekend, coincidentally. Be warned: It is uncensored and not for the squeamish.

  7. Just Lurkin says:

    Meanwhile Allwyn Cashe’s Silver Star has not been upgraded (this was one of Jonn’s pet causes). I am also an advocate for PFC Stephen Sanford’s DSC to be upgraded to the MOH. I am sure that there are others, including the USMC captain from early in the war whose name escapes me. I am glad to see a living MOH recipient from Iraq finally, but I expected it to be someone else (nothing against SSG Bellavia).

    • Mason says:

      SFC Cashe was definitely short changed. Hadn’t read about PFC Sanford, and reading his DSC citation (, I definitely think he deserves the MoH.

      • OldSoldier54 says:

        SFC Cashe, his courage and concern for his men … that was CMH material if I’ve ever heard it.

    • Tim says:

      You’re thinking of(then) First Lieutenant Brian R. Chontosh, USMC who broke the back of an ambush during the invasion of Iraq. His Navy Cross citation reads in part: “….Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.
      He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others…”

      He’s one of only two Marine Officers awarded the Navy Cross during the GWOT.

  8. 5th/77th FA says:

    Whether or not some chair warming REMF GO thinks that SSG Bellavia deserves the MoH, when the sh^t got real, SSG Bellavia would find me in his ruck covering his six. Or his front pocket passing him more mags as I laid down some covering fire. I wasn’t there but I can read and comprehend quite well. Going by the narrative, this Warrior deserves this Top Honor. BAMF! YMMV

  9. HMC Ret says:

    A two-step increase? Someone seems to have been asleep at the wheel back at day one. I read the writeup. I’m thinking this is a no brainer.

  10. OldSoldier54 says:

    May you wear it well, SSG Bellavia.