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Only Living Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal of Honor Recipient to Speak at VMI

Retired Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia - Profile PictureLEXINGTON, Va., Oct.14, 2021Retired Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia will give an inspirational talk on service above self on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m. in Gillis Theater in Marshall Hall at Virginia Military Institute. His talk, which is open to the public, concludes VMI’s 12th Annual Leadership and Ethics Conference titled “Evolving Civic Leadership: Citizenship & Social Responsibility.” Bellavia is VMI’s 2021 H. B. Johnson Jr. ’26 Distinguished Lecture Series speaker.

Bellavia is the first and only living Iraq veteran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is our country's highest military honor. He was awarded this medal at the White House on June 25, 2019, surrounded by his family and every living member of his task force.

Bellavia, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1999, was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic efforts on Nov. 10, 2004, during the Battle of Fallujah — dramatic efforts that saved the lives of his unit members. He served in three military campaigns: Kosovo 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom I, and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. 

In 2006 and 2008, Bellavia returned to Iraq as an embedded reporter covering heavy fighting. He wrote a book about those experiences in 2007 titled “House to House.” His book is considered one of the best first-hand military accounts ever written. Copies of this book will be for sale in the lobby of Marshall Hall during the Leadership Conference with a book signing following his talk.

Bellavia is the founder of the advocacy organization Vets for Freedom and Deuce Deuce Relief Fund, which supports the soldiers of his former Task Force 2-2 in Iraq. Today he travels the country as a speaker sharing the important message of service over self and as a sought-after source for national media.

A collaborative effort with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the H.B. Johnson Jr. ‘26 Distinguished Lecture Series attracts speakers who address key themes from international and cultural perspectives, including contemporary foreign and domestic issues, leadership, moral-ethical questions, and civic responsibilities. Bellavia’s talk is free and does not require guest registration. Doors will open at 2 p.m. with overflow seating in the Hall of Valor. The public can also register to attend the entire leadership conference online at


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