Pentagon Hall of Heroes: Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia’s Speech

Pentagon Hall of Heroes: Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia’s Speech


– [Announcer] Induction ceremony in honor of Staff Sergeant
David G. Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia was presented our nation’s highest and most
prestigious award for valor by the President of the United
States, the Medal of Honor. This afternoon he will
formally be inducted into the Pentagon’s most sacred
place, the Hall of Heroes. Our hosts for today’s ceremony are: Performing the duties of the
Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Honorable David L. Norquist, performing the duties of
the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville, and the Sergeant Major of
the Army, Daniel L. Dailey. Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the arrival of the official party and remain standing for the
singing of our national anthem by Staff Sergeant Adiza Jibril, and the invocation delivered
by Chaplain Thomas Solhjem. ♪ Oh say, can you see ♪ ♪ By the dawn’s early light ♪ ♪ What so proudly we hailed ♪ ♪ At the twilight’s last gleaming ♪ ♪ Whose broad stripes and bright stars ♪ ♪ Through the perilous fight ♪ ♪ O’er the ramparts we watched ♪ ♪ Were so gallantly streaming ♪ ♪ And the rockets’ red glare ♪ ♪ The bombs bursting in air ♪ ♪ Gave proof through the night ♪ ♪ That our flag was still there ♪ ♪ Oh say, does that
star-spangled banner yet wave ♪ ♪ O’er the land of the free ♪ ♪ And the home of the brave ♪ – Ladies and gentlemen, please join me as we mark this special
occasion in prayer. Lord, You call warriors to be
strong and very courageous, and You promise to go with them
wherever that path may lead. We thank You today for one such warrior, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, whose love for fellow soldiers has brought out this courageous spirit in the actions that we
honor in this ceremony. I thank You for his faith,
family, friends, and comrades that have forged this humble warrior who stands before us today. It is with a profound sense of pride that a grateful nation
recognizes the valor of Your servant David. He joins the pantheon of
heroes who have gone before, and is a waypoint for
those who will follow. Bless him, our nation, and our Army with men and women of like character, courage, and commitment
for many years to come, and Lord, keep the liberty’s
lamp burning bright always I pray, in Your holy name, amen. – [Announcer] Please be seated. Ladies and gentlemen, General McConville. (audience applauds) – Well, good afternoon
ladies and gentlemen, welcome Representative Collins, Secretary Norquist, Secretary McCarthy, Sergeant Major and Holly Dailey, and all of our distinguished guests, thank you for being here today. You know, there are some people who look for their heroes
at sporting events. There’s others who look
for them on golf courses, and even others who look
for them at concert halls. My heroes are soldiers, soldiers who raised their
right hand and said, “Send me,” knowing that they would
be going into harm’s way. Soldiers like Staff
Sergeant David Bellavia, who went above and
beyond the call of duty. (mumbles)
(everyone applauds) And as we honor David today,
I wanna recognize his family. His wife, Deanna, his children, Evan, Ayden, and Vivienne, his mother, Marilyn, his brothers, Rand and Reverend Daniel, and I met them Monday night, and what a wonderful family. Thank you for being here
and supporting David. I know this is kinda a challenging week, but it’s very, very
special to have you here. Yesterday with the official award of the Medal of Honor at the White House, David Bellavia joined
this distinguished group of national heroes, who displayed conspicuous
gallantry above the call of duty, and under extraordinary circumstances. We’re honored to have one
other Medal of Honor recipient with us today, and that’s
Specialist Five Jim McCloughan. Sir, could you please stand
so we could acknowledge you? Sir, it’s great to have you here. (everyone applauds) I’d also like to recognize some of the members of the platoon who served so well with David. Could the soldiers of Task
Force 2-2 stand up please and be recognized? Great job guys, we had a
great lunch with you all. (everyone applauds) Thank you for makin’ us so proud. And I also know we have some
Gold Star family members here. We can never forget the
loss of our loved ones. Could you please stand and
allow us to recognize you? (everyone applauds) The Battle of Fallujah,
led by the Marines, was truly a team effort. It was multi-national,
it was multi-service, it was multi-branch,
it was multi-division. Forces came from all across Iraq to defeat the terrorist and
insurgent threat in Fallujah. One of those units was 2-2 Infantry. 2-2 Infantry would be
the main effort battalion for the 7th Marine Regiment
as they attacked into sector. And although there were plenty of jets, fighters, and attack
helicopters and fire support, this battle was won on
the ground by the troops, and some of those troops are here today. This was won by the troops on the ground, and it was won by soldiers and Marines in close, tough combat, and again, it’s great to
have you all here today so we can recognize you
for all of your heroism and what you did to represent
this country so well. During the Second Battle of Fallujah, David was a squad leader in Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, and on that 10th of November, 2004, he was leading his squad, conducting search and attack operations moving south through Fallujah. The squad had been engaged by small arms, RPG fires and IEDs, for 48 hours straight, clearing sectors as they moved. Their mission that night was to clear a block of 12 buildings, whereabouts six or more insurgents were thought to be taking
shelter and dug in. A squad from his platoon
entered to clear a building, and they were engaged by heavy enemy fire. They took casualties
and were trapped inside. David recognized the danger
and took immediate action. He exchanged his M16 for a second M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and aggressively moved into the house. He laid intense fire on the insurgents, which allowed the squad to exit. Next, a Bradley Fighting
Vehicle fired into the house to suppress the insurgents. Not knowing how many
insurgents were still alive, David assuredly re-entered with his M16. He knew he had to destroy the
enemy to protect his soldiers, and that’s exactly what he did. In the chaos, uncertainty, and
intense close quarters combat David acted on his fearless
determination and instincts. He ultimately eliminated five insurgents. His actions that day
saved an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strong point, and saved members of his
platoon from an imminent threat. That day also happened to
be David’s 29th birthday. David, your actions on that November day, at the risk of your own life, were well above and
beyond the call of duty. Your actions inspire us,
and will continue to inspire future generations of Americans. Thanks for representing
the best of America and the best of the Army well. I’m honored that you
are a soldier for life. Thank you all for being here today, and I’d like to introduce
Secretary McCarthy. Thank you very much. (audience applauds) – Thank you all for joining us here today. This is a long overdue recognition. First, let me welcome all
of our distinguished guests, Medal of Honor recipient that are also in attendance today. A special welcome to
David’s mother, Marilyn, his wife, Deanna, his children,
Evan, Ayden, and Vivienne, and his brothers, Daniel and Rand. It’s great to have you
all here with us today. I’d also like to recognize the Gold Star families in attendance, as well as all of David’s battle buddies from 2-2 Infantry, the Ramrods, who’ve joined us for this
incredible recognition. We’re here today to honor
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, whose actions on November 10th, 2004 are fully deserving of
the nation’s highest, most prestigious military decoration, awarded for acts of valor. David, it’s truly a privilege for me to be a part of this ceremony as we induct you into the Hall of Heroes. Today, David joins a select group who have demonstrated the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty when the nation and the
teammates needed it most. We’re proud and humbled to have a soldier of this
stature among our ranks. David’s heroic actions on
that night in Fallujah, as just recounted by General McConville, leave no doubt that there
are heroes who walk among us. I had the pleasure of speaking to David over the last few days, and along with his
incredible candor and wit it is evident that his
commitment to the Army and his brothers in
arms remains unwavering. In our discussion, he said to me, “This honor is not for me, it’s for them, “it’s for all of the Iraq War veterans.” Which is why it was no surprise when you brought your teammates on stage with you and the President yesterday. In David’s case, he
credits much of that drive to his grandfather, Joseph Brunacini. As a member of our Greatest Generation, Joe participated in the Normandy Campaign as a part of the follow-on forces that poured into France
after the D-Day invasion. He fought through the
thick Bocage country, and took part in the Battle of the Bulge. When David was a boy, Joe would tell him stories
about his time in the war. He would describe his experience as a radio telephone operator, and brag about those in
which he served with. As David remembers, Joe’s
stories never glamorized death, but instead were focused on saving people. They were always about the bonds that formed between soldiers, and the camaraderie of Army units. It was these stories that
inspired David to serve. Today, Joe is 99 years young, and joining us through,
I think, via livestream, but is at home well and
resting in New York. He will rest assured to
know that his grandson is carrying on that tradition
of the Greatest Generation. David’s commitment to his
Army family did not end once he left the force in 2005. In 2005, he co-founded Vets for Freedom, a veteran democracy organization that empowers veterans of
character and experience with opportunities to represent the nation and be a part of the national dialogue. In 2012, he went on to
become a radio talk show host in his hometown of Buffalo. He wanted America to know the challenges that soldiers face in the world, and the sacrifices that they endure. His show currently ranks the
top 100 shows in America, but it doesn’t end there. After writing a book about
his experience as a soldier and working closely with
countless veteran organizations, his desire to serve knows no boundaries. I’m sure this does not come
as a surprise to anyone, but David let me know that he wanted to find
another way to serve the Army. He wants to help Army with recruiting by sharing his story on how
it prepared him for life, which has made him a better
person, father, and man. This is exactly what
Retired Sergeant First Class Gus Reina did when he
recruited young David in 1999. Gus was in attendance
yesterday at the White House, but unfortunately he had
to head back to work. It is clear that someone
with such an eye for talent needs to be back on active duty. (audience laughs) So Sergeant Major Dailey, why
don’t you take this reaction and go find Gus and get
him back in our ranks as quickly as possible. We’re a people organization, and it’s clear that people like Gus helped us find the best
that America has to offer. David, it’s a privilege for
me to stand alongside you and be a part of this ceremony. You truly exemplify what’s
great about this country and our Army. Your commitment to our country
with your brothers in arms is a lasting example that will
inspire generations to come. Thank you for all you’ve done
for us, and for our country. It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce Mr. David Norquist, an outstanding dedicated civil servant who has served several presidents, and last week President
Trump announced his intent to nominate him as our 34th
Deputy Secretary of Defense. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. David Norquist. (audience applauds) – Distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, welcome, and thank you for being here today to welcome Staff Sergeant David Bellavia to his rightful place
in the Hall of Heroes. Sergeant Bellavia is the
first living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions taken during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I wanna offer a special welcome
to David’s mother, Marilyn, wife, Deanna, children,
Evan, Ayden, and Vivienne, and brothers, Daniel and Rand, as well as the Gold Star
families in attendance and the many soldiers who
served alongside David who are here today. It is an honor to be here
with all of you today. Thank you for the service, and thank you for the sacrifice you have made for our nation. Today is special, because today we reflect on
the true meaning of courage, service, and selflessness, and honor a rare person who embodies them. There are many valor stories of combat, but the Medal of Honor is unique. It is only awarded to
the bravest among us, the noble and the selfless. Staff Sergeant Bellavia is one of them. We may use the term hero all the time, but there are in fact
heroes among our heroes, and they are very rare. Since the Medal of
Honor’s creation in 1861, of the tens of millions who
have served in the US Military, less than 3,600 medals have been awarded, each after painstaking
deliberation and consideration. These are people who, when
presented with the option, were willing to sacrifice
themselves to protect others. This award is about
offering these special souls our reverence as a
nation, and as a military, and ensuring that the best among us, their bravery, their sacrifice, and their selflessness is never forgotten. Now, where does that courage
and selflessness come from? We often ask ourselves. It comes from their commitment to others, and to the mission. For Staff Sergeant Bellavia, the son of a dentist
from Jamestown, New York, and the youngest of four boys who grew up in Western New York, the desire to serve and protect
those he loves runs deep, and drove him to join the military after studying biology and
theater at Franklin Pierce and the University of Buffalo. When asked about his inspiration
for joining the Army, he points to the example
set by his grandfather, who earned a Bronze Star
while serving in the Army during the Normandy Campaign. Staff Sergeant Bellavia
continued with the tradition of joining the US Army Infantry. He would eventually deploy to Iraq with Alpha Company Task Force 2-2 Infantry out of the 1st Infantry
Division, the Big Red One. On November 10th, 2004 in Fallujah when his unit walked into an ambush, not only did David put himself at risk to give others the
opportunity to exit the house, he chose to go back in,
and for a half an hour fighting the remaining
insurgents still inside. I had the honor and privilege of spending a little bit of time with David and his teammates, and I can tell you they are
truly a band of brothers. The camaraderie of these men and the humility with
which David approaches his heroic actions, is inspiring. It comes at no surprise that
he acted bravely and decisively to protect his fellow soldiers. “That’s what serving is
all about,” David says, “it’s all about the mission.” Quote, “We’re not looking for attention, “we’re here because our
country needs us to be.” When asked about his actions
that day in Fallujah, David said, “I’m not the best shot, “but at five feet I’m pretty good.” (audience laughs) I’d say so. David would also ask us to push the spotlight from
himself back to his unit, so David, consistent with that, let me highlight for the audience that the heroism displayed during the course of
the Battle of Fallujah earned Task Force 2-2 the
Presidential Unit Citation, so David and his fellow
soldiers here today come from a Task Force of
heroes, and we honor them. Now, David’s willingness
to sacrifice himself to protect those around him is fundamental to why we are all here, to protect each other and
to protect our nation. We may spend a lot of time talking about weapons systems,
technology, and doctrine, but our most important asset
is the individual soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine, because at the point where
the rubber meets the road it all comes down to those
individual men and women, their bravery, courage, professionalism, sense of duty, and selflessness, all of which were so remarkably exhibited by this great American. War has always been a human endeavor, and it is people like David who give us faith in our future. His actions resonate
across time and space, inspiring us and fortifying
our trust in ourselves, in our humanity, in our
military, and in our nation. Our country is forever indebted to him, and this medal reflects the
American people’s understanding of a certain paradox. We only become truly great when we make ourselves
the servants of others. David is a truly great man, and this nation is proud
to call him one of our own. Thank you. (audience applauds) – [Announcer] Mr. McCarthy,
General McConville, Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey, and Staff Sergeant Bellavia will now join Mr. Norquist on stage for the induction ceremony. Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated
during the presentations. The President of the
United States of America, authorized by Act of
Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff
Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above
and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia distinguished himself by acts
of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of
duty on November 10th, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation
Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. While clearing a house, a squad from Staff
Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon became trapped within a
room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading
to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate
severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia
took up an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents. With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia
fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break
contact and exit the house. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle
was brought forward to suppress the enemy. However, due to high walls
surrounding the house, it could not fire directly
at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia
then re-entered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to fire a rocket
propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger posed by the grenade
to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia
assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to another part of the house. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an uncleared,
darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent
came down the stairs, firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously
wounded insurgent reemerged and also engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and
eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia
then received enemy fire from an insurgent emerging
from a closet in the room. Exchanging gunfire,
Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the
stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third floor roof
onto the second floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia
engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding
him in the back and legs, and causing him to fall off the roof. Acting on instinct to save the members of his
platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents,
and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army. (everyone applauds) At this time, the Medal of
Honor flag will be presented. On 23 October, 2002, Public Law 107-248 Section 8143 established the Medal of Honor flag to recognize service members who have distinguished
themselves by gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal of Honor flag commemorates the sacrifice and blood
shed for our freedoms, and gives emphasis to the Medal of Honor being the highest award
for valor by an individual serving in the Armed Forces
of the United States. The light blue color with gold fringe bearing 13 white stars are adapted from the
Medal of Honor ribbon. (everyone applauds) The Medal of Honor plaque
will now be unveiled, inducting Staff Sergeant
Bellavia into the Hall of Heroes. (everyone applauds) Thank you Mr. Norquist, Mr. McCarthy, General McConville, and
Sergeant Major Dailey. Ladies and gentlemen, Staff
Sergeant David G. Bellavia. – Good afternoon. The Honorable David Norquist, performing the duties of
Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Ryan McCarthy, performing the duties of
Secretary of the Army, Vice Chief of Staff of the
Army General James McConville, Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, and my congressman, the
Honorable Chris Collins, US Representative of
New York from New York, Ramrods of 2-2 Infantry, there we go. Family, my mother, my
brothers, Dan, Rand, Tim. Deanna, my kids, Evan,
Ayden, and Vivienne. Thank you for your support. Your presence and my good fortune to be able to share this occasion with my men, my family, my friends, has eased the awkwardness
that I’m feeling right now. What’s more, I’m especially
proud of the recognition that this award brings
to my unit, my leaders, and my peers of the mighty
Ramrods of 2-2 Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Combatants bear witness to all aspects of the human condition. 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. Why do American warriors under fire do what men have done since
this nation’s inception? This is a common thread that connects the militias
of Lexington and Concord with the warriors of Fallujah. It is our love of nation, our way of life, and our love by those who
we serve with side by side. We defend, we avenge, we sacrifice, we bleed, and we are willing to die
for this unique creation, the United States of America. I am complete for having experienced that kind of sacrifice
with my fellow men at arms, and those who died, they gave their lives for me, they gave their lives for you, and countless citizens
who will never know them. I’m talking about Sims, Faulkenburg, Iwan, Gonzalez, Vandeberg,
Matteson, Gariantes, Shrek, Sizemore, Mock, Rosales,
Cardinez, Sprayberry, and Pruitt. Those were our countrymen,
those were our friends, and these men will never get the chance to experience the cycle of life, the birth and growth of their children. They shall not grow old because they chose to stand in our place and face the enemy for us. It’s not enough to acknowledge
the fallen by name, or just inscribe their names in marble as proof that they lived and died. To truly honor the fallen, we must acknowledge how and
why they gave their lives. Their death wasn’t a random
act, or a splash of misfortune. These men and women voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way, prepared to die so that we
may rest secured at home. They are the insurance
policy that guarantees that our founding documents,
our God-given rights, are more worthy than their own tomorrows. When the news that Faulkenburg, Sims, Matteson, and Iwan had fallen, the reaction, the shock,
the disbelief, the grief, it was transformed into resolve and rage to complete the mission assigned to us and give us even greater
tenacity under fire. Their sacrifice gave us
clear focus to fight, using a reserve that we never knew we had. We broke the will of our adversaries, the enemy was defeated, and because of that we came home. For the infantry men in combat, there is nobility and
purpose in our lives, and that is unique, but we don’t see ourselves
as a people apart. We are America’s warrior class, we are citizens of the United States and treasure this land more
than any overseas posting. The Army provided me with
purpose and appreciation for the blessing America
has bestowed upon us all. I am forever grateful to
the United States Army for making me able to count
and cherish those blessings in a way that is unique to most, and to those aware of the uniform. I think the uniform, I think my Army has
made us all better men, fathers, employees,
husbands, and citizens. The controversy that
swirled over the Iraq War was not a departure from other
wars that America has fought. Just a short distance from where
I grew up in Orleans County on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, it was settled by loyalists
who supported King George. With the exception of the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, open dissent has been at
the core of our very being, and war has never been
particularly a popular undertaking. American soldiers have never confused the United States with Sparta. The best leaders in battle become that way by being loyal and dutiful subordinates. We don’t get a vote. We execute the lawful
intent of our government. There is no political
affiliation on our dog tags. We continue the warrior
legacy of the United States without regard for adulation,
or unanimous approval, either. The Iraqi veteran has maintained, and in many circumstances far exceeded, the highest traditions of military service to this great nation. Of the 1.5 million men and
women who have served in Iraq, the valor they displayed was often subsumed by
political rhetoric at home. That in no way diminishes the
accomplishment of our troops, or the accomplishments
of my generation at war. The award is recognition of that, and it should be seen as a
validation of our efforts, not as a reward for the
action of one individual in one house in Fallujah. When I think of Iraq, I think of Colin Fitts, man shot by three
separate weapons systems. Nobody would’ve raised an
eyebrow if Fitts retired. Instead, Colin Fitts
returns to combat duty for two more years, to shed more blood for
this nation that he loves. When I think of Iraq,
I think of Chris Oley, the young SAW gunner whose
job it is to open doors and put down reflexive fire to people who happen to
be shooting back at him. And he was able to do that because behind him was
Sergeant Warren Misa, ready to pull him out of that doorway and undoubtedly save his life. I have Chuck Knapp, my team leader. Chuck Knapp saved our entire
3rd Platoon Alpha Company 2-2 when he stopped us from entering
a building contained IED that would’ve killed all of us. I think about Max Field, my SAW gunner who asked our Doc Abernathy to fix his injured foot
in the prone position so he could continue to
knock down targets under fire while he was gettin’ fixed up. My guy John Ruiz, who shielded the body of
his buddy from incoming fire without fear of risk to himself. When I think of the Iraq War, I think of Peoto Soholis,
brave, strong, and steady, our engineers, who devised and deployed remarkable weapons systems
that saved countless lives, our tankers, 2-7 Cavalry on
the other side of Fallujah that hardly gets any
notice for what they did. There were indispensable Bradley crews who busted through walls. Omar Hardaway, James Cantrell, Chad Ellis, who without a functioning 25
millimeter Bushmaster cannon, or TOW, or coax, and let’s
not discuss how that happened. (audience laughs) He used his rifle to suppress the enemy. Cory Brown, the grizzly bear from Montana. Shane Gossard, humble, beautiful, kind. Brad Utissayer, Delalu, the Bradley teams and those crews are the reason why children
have fathers today. And those teams shielded our
dismounts from rocket fire that were meant to take our lives. Corey McFadden, John Bandy, Wilson, Gary Fry, Kane, they never took a step
backwards under fire. Sergeant John Gregory
is one of the toughest, most decent men I’ve ever served with. He had a tour from hell a
year after we came home. Our drivers, Marcott, Gonzo,
Woodberry, Hunter, and Perez, they got us there where we needed to go and they did it with bravery and valor. Iraq makes me think of Victor Santos, a fiery, brave soldier who
cut his combat teeth at Iraq and went on for more in a Ranger regiment. McDaniel and Swanson, young kids shouldering 240 Bravos on their shoulder, suppressing enemy fire from feet away. I had Stuckert, I had Metcalf,
I had Flannery, and Gross, and I had our door
crushing He-Man, Hugh Hall. That is my Iraq War. And it makes me proud to have told my dad no to dental school. (audience laughs) No, I learned much more from living and fighting with these men than I ever could’ve from a
lifetime of doing root canals. (audience laughs) My unit’s leaders died
leading men from the front. When our company commander Sean Sims, our company commander, he
was killed in a house fight. Joey Seaford and my interpreter Sammy, who just became a US citizen a week ago. Yeah, you can clap for that.
(audience applauds) Joey Seaford and my interpreter Sammy were there to engage the enemy in efforts to save my
company commander’s life. Seaford engaged the enemy
and threw his weapon at him, engaging him with the
buttstock of his rifle after being shot in the shoulder. Travis Beretto, and my first platoon, fought their way to extract
wounded and fallen Ramrods under intense enemy fire. My Iraq War, I had Captain,
now Colonel Doug Walter. I had First Sergeant, Retired Command Sergeant
Major Peter Smith. These were company leaders
who put aside loss, put aside trauma, to direct young warriors during the most stressful
times of our lives. Young lieutenants, like Chris Walls, Jeff Emory, Lieutenant Meno, they learned how to lead and cover down when their peers had fallen. And finally there’s Scott Lawson, a true friend, we lost him in 2013. He entered the house with
me that night in Fallujah, he gave me strength, he gave me confidence that allowed me to survive that night and many other nights since then. And I gotta mention
this guy, Michael Ware. A combat journalist,
there to cover a story and becomes part of the story. You know, before I got to know him, before I got to see him in action, I would’ve told you he was
100% worthless and a nuisance. (audience laughs) Now that number is 65%. (audience laughs and applauds) I was wrong. Michael Ware is now the
Ernie Pyle of his generation. His reporting is a testament
to what we all did, and if it’s not for men and
women like Michael Ware, our story would’ve gone unremarked. Most of the men I just described got little or no
recognition for their valor. In subsequent deployments, some would lose their lives years later. It is our duty to tell the story of our brave men and women
who sacrificed so much for our fellow citizens. As I’ve tried to communicate to you today, this is not a celebration about me. I’m not mouthing a cliche. We have much more work to do when it comes to the Iraq War veteran. We are not there yet,
and we’re not even close when it comes to educating
our fellow Americans about what was accomplished,
what was sacrificed, and what we all went through. Our survival as a nation depends on it. We honor our brothers and sisters in the United States Marine Corps. Anbar Province was their fight. Men like Brad Castle, Rafael Peralta, Christopher Adlesperger, Bryan Swatosh, Jeremy
Workman, Sergeant Kraft, they gave the enemy
everything they could handle. The Navy and Air Force
completed the remarkable display of American valor and might, and fought shoulder to shoulder with the United States Army in Fallujah and all over Iraq. This entire military is one
cohesive, dedicated force. And the threats to our
nations, they don’t sleep. They’re watching our every move. Iran, Russia, China, North
Korea, ISIS, Al-Qaeda. They may be watching this right now. Our military should not be mistaken for a cable news gabfest show. We don’t care what you look like, we don’t care who you voted for, who you worship, what you
worship, who you love. It doesn’t matter if your dad
left you millions when he died or if you knew who your father was. We have been honed into a
machine of lethal moving parts that you would be wise to avoid if you know what’s good for you. We will not be intimidated,
we will not back down. We’ve seen war. We don’t want war. But if you want war with the
United States of America, there’s one thing I can
promise you, so help me God. Someone else will raise
your sons and daughters. (audience cheers and applauds) We fight so our children never have to. We fight for one day when our children and our enemy’s children can
discuss their differences without fear or loathing. We fight so that anyone out there thinking about raising arms
against our citizens or allies realize the futility of attrition against a disciplined,
professional, and lethal force built to withstand anything you
can dream of throwing at us. Americans want this kind of country, Americans want this kind of world, and we stand ready to defend it, to protect this, so help us God. May God bless this beautiful Army, may God bless our Marine Corps, our Navy, our Air Force, and Coast Guard, may God bless our allies, and we already know that
God blessed America, because He gave us the
greatest fighting force this world has ever seen, 2-2 Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division. Thank you, Ramrods. Duty first, Dukes. Thank you very much. (audience cheers and applauds) – [Announcer] Thank you
Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Ladies and gentlemen,
please remain standing and join in the singing
of “The Army Song”. The words to “The Army Song”
can be found in your program. ♪ March along, sing our song ♪ ♪ With the Army of the free ♪ ♪ Count the brave, count the true ♪ ♪ Who have fought to victory ♪ ♪ We’re the Army and proud of our name ♪ ♪ We’re the Army and proudly proclaim ♪ ♪ First to fight for the right ♪ ♪ And to build the nation’s might ♪ ♪ And the Army goes rolling along ♪ ♪ Proud of all we have done ♪ ♪ Fighting till the battle’s won ♪ ♪ And the Army goes rolling along ♪ ♪ Then it’s hi, hi, hey ♪ ♪ The Army’s on its way ♪ ♪ Count off the cadence loud and strong ♪ ♪ For where e’er we go ♪ ♪ You will always know ♪ ♪ That the Army goes rolling along ♪ – [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen, please pause for a moment at your seats to allow the official party and Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s
family to exit the auditorium.

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