Bellavia enlisted in the Army in 1999 as an infantryman. Instead of leaving the service in 2001, he chose to re-up his commitment to serve in the wake of the terror attacks on 9/11.
In 2004, he deployed to Iraq, and that November he was a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah. Their mission was to clear 12 buildings where insurgents had taken shelter.
The platoon found nothing as they cleared the first nine buildings, but as they entered the next compound they came under heavy machine-gun fire. The soldiers were trapped.
Staff Sgt. Bellavia provided cover fire, allowing his fellow soldiers to escape. When his unit came under fire a second time he ran into the house the insurgents were using for cover. He fought hand-to-hand and prevented the detonation of explosives that would likely have killed several Americans.
Because of Bellavia’s selfless courage and willingness to risk his own life, he saved the lives of his comrades.
The president said, “America is blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag.”
Speaking directly to Bellavia, the president said, “David, today we honor your extraordinary courage, we salute your selfless service, and we thank you for carrying on the legacy of American valor that has always made our blessed nation the strongest and mightiest anywhere in the world.”
On Veterans Day, every American should echo President Trump’s sentiment — not just to Bellavia, but to the millions of veterans who have served.
Americans should go out of their way to express honor and gratitude to veterans today — because their sacrifice has kept us from experiencing those difficult things ourselves. So many of them have fought through hell and back.
Every veteran has a unique story about their service to our country. They can tell you who and what has impacted them along the way, including the brothers and sisters in arms they have lost. The chaos and fear of enemy fire, the hollowness of oceans-wide separation from loved ones and the grueling physical and emotional challenges standard with the job have left scars and wounds, some physical, others unseen. Many will carry these for a lifetime, their futures forever marked by their experience as a soldier.
These are realities only a proud few truly understand.
But that’s all the more reason everyday Americans should go out of their way to express honor and gratitude to veterans today — because their sacrifice has kept us from experiencing those difficult things ourselves. So many of them have fought through hell and back, the least we can do is acknowledge what they’ve experienced to protect us and say “thank you.”
More importantly, our veterans have made sure our country is safe and our cherished freedoms safeguarded. We can live the American Dream because they have given up many of their dreams to protect us.
Our soldiers fight in countries ruled by despots or authoritarian regimes that oppress their citizens so that, in America, we have the freedom to believe and worship as we choose without fear of persecution, freedom to pursue our interests and build lives of personal satisfaction, freedom to choose for ourselves who sits at the helm of our great country.
Given that we are now one year away from the 2020 presidential election, this last freedom is one we cannot take for granted. Unfortunately, 72 million Christians are projected to not vote in the election. And to make matters worse, reports indicate that young Americans are leaving the faith and embracing socialist ideas more than ever before — the very same ideas many of our veterans fought against.
If we want to honor our veterans, we must do more than say “thank you” to them once a year. We must care for them and honor their sacrifices by practicing the freedoms they’ve fought to protect. Being informed and pledging to vote in local and national elections is one way we can honor them.
That’s what Veterans Day is all about. It’s not just a reminder to take a moment and listen to our veterans’ stories, to honor them and their sacrifice and to express our sincerest gratitude, but to act on the freedoms they’ve protected.