On Nov. 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David S. Bellavia and four members of his platoon were ordered to clear 12-building blocks where several Jihadists were believed to be hiding in Fallujah, Iraq. They encountered no one in the first nine houses they cleared, only weapon stashes. But as they entered the 10th house, all hell broke loose. What happened next could have been ripped right out of a Hollywood action movie.
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Bellavia and the four other soldiers entered the 10th building in the block and found themselves immediately under fire. More American troops tried to help assist the five soldiers in the building, but the firepower was too much.
With a building full of insurgents, Bellavia and the other soldiers knew the fight was going to be an uphill battle. As the shooting and fighting continued, the troops who were with Bellavia were going down left and right with injuries from small arms fire and debris from the building being blasted.
As the only soldier still standing, Bellavia refused to go down without a fight. “At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with an M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the Jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street,” the award citation read.
After the four other soldiers were safely out of from the building, Bellavia ordered a nearby Bradley tank to shell the building he had just been in. After the shelling stopped, Bellavia headed back into the house alone to see if any enemy combatants remained.
To his surprise, the building was shelled, but there were plenty of Jihadists left, according to Military.com. It was one man taking on a building full of armed enemy fighters. “I wanted that revenge. I wanted to be that leader that I promised I would be,” Bellavia said, according to a 2016 Army release. “A light switch went off.”
He entered one room and saw an insurgent with an RPG, which he quickly shot. “A second Jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen, and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder,” the citation added. “A third Jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon. Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man.”
As he headed back upstairs, an insurgent hiding in a closet came out shooting wildly when he heard Bellavia enter the room. Luckily, the insurgent was a poor shot as he missed Bellavia only to be shot and wounded himself before running off.
According to Task and Purpose, Bellavia tried to pursue, but he slipped on the bloody stairs. He then tossed a grenade onto the upper floors to force those insurgents further up to the roof.
“Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position,” the citation reads. “The wounded Jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist’s throat.”
Eventually, after hours of fighting by himself, five soldiers from Bellavia’s platoon were finally able to enter the building to help clear the rest of the structure. In 2005, he retired from the Army and was awarded the Silver Star.
Almost 15 years later, Bellavia will be awarded the Medal of Honor, which marks the first time a living veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom will have received the prestigious medal.