Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first living Medal of Honor recipient from the second Iraq War, praised millennials for answering the country’s call to serve in the Global War on Terror during a private reception Thursday at the Yorba Linda Country Club.
The 43-year-old Buffalo, N.Y. native said young people entering the U.S. military are better soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen than those of his age cohort, Generation X.
“Nobody thought that our generation was going to answer the call, and they were wrong, and I’m telling you right now, everyone is wrong about you too,” Bellavia said. “You have shown statistically that you can retain more information than any other generation. You just don’t make your beds. That’s the only rub against you.”
Bellavia received the Medal of Honor last month from President Trump at the White House. Bellavia is credited with saving the lives of his fellow soldiers on Nov. 10, 2004, during the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Bellavia’s platoon was tasked with clearing a compound and came under heavy fire by insurgents waiting to ambush them. After three fellow soldiers were wounded, Bellavia voluntarily stormed the house alone, killing four enemy combatants and seriously wounding another in close-quarter combat.
“Combat is horrible,” Bellavia said. “The cliche is true. It’s ghastly, it’s ghoulish. I pray none of you see it. But I’ll tell you what, there are things you see in a combat zone that you will never see outside, and that is men and women who sacrifice for each other.”
The event was cosponsored by the Assn. of the United States Army, Greater L.A. Chapter, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Southern California and the Yorba Linda-based non-profit For Families of Active Military.
After expressing his deep admiration for three World War II veterans who were treated as guests of honor, Bellavia said he praised Vietnam veterans for their sacrifices in a conflict that many Americans and elected officials didn’t understand or support.
“A generation later, when their sons and grandchildren went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was the Vietnam generation that protected us from all of shame and ignorance they endured themselves,” Bellavia said. “That is the ultimate testament of love, and we got all of the beautiful things that those Vietnam veterans never received.”
Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to TimesOC. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielLanghorne.