President Trump presented Staff Sgt. David Bellavia with the Medal of Honor for his heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom, making Bellavia the first Iraq War veteran to receive the honor while still alive.
"David often tells young people, Americans don't want to fight. But if someone picks a fight for us, we'll win. We fight for love of our country," the president said.
Bellavia was recognized for the heroism he showed during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004, according to the Army. His platoon had been tasked with clearing a block of 12 buildings where a half dozen insurgents were suspected of hiding. In one of the compounds, insurgents armed with machine guns ambushed Bellavia's squad as it was trying to clear the house. Soldiers were wounded and trapped, and Bellavia took it upon himself to act. Risking his life, he single handedly cleared the house, killing the insurgents in the house and saving his entire squad.
Bellavia "demonstrated exceptional courage to protect his men and defend his nation," the president said.
Throughout the Iraq War, Bellavia also took part in battles in Najaf, Mosul, Baqubah and Muqdadiyah. After leaving the Army in 2005, he co-founded Vets for Freedom, an advocacy group for veterans who served in the wars in the Middle East.
His previous awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and many more honors.
Bellavia now lives in western New York and has three children.
Morgan Stephens contributed reporting.