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Feb. 17—The 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley on Tuesday kicked off its Big Red One Year of Honor by recognizing its 37 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Officials presented a commemorative plaque to former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor. They honored him along with Vietnam War recipients 1st Lt. Gary Miller, Spc. Robert Law and Staff Sgt. Matthew Leonard by renaming installation roads after them. They will do this for the remaining recipients throughout the year.
The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest and most prestigious military decoration for soldiers.
Bellavia, originally of Waterport, New York, was the squad leader with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He received his Medal of Honor in 2019, an upgrade from his Silver Star, for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq.
Bellavia exposed himself to enemy fire as he defended his soldiers on Nov. 10, 2004. He was clearing a block of houses when his platoon was pinned down. Bellavia entered the house to allow his fellow soldiers to exit safely, killing four insurgents and incapacitating another.
Bellavia enlisted in 1999 and left active duty in 2005 after serving in Kosovo and Iraq. In 2007, he published his memoir, "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War."
"His courageous and unselfish acts to save members of his platoon from an imminent threat earned him our nation's highest honor," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Sims, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley.
Sims said the Big Red One Year of Honor is more than about commemorating heroes but also reflecting and learning from examples of honorable leaders within the 1st Infantry Division.
"Our organization is not made up of our people," he said. "Our organization is our people. The Big Red One Year of Honor is an investment in each of us. Through interactions with persons who display exemplary behavior and by reflecting on those who forged our storied legacy, we'll emerge more capable, resilient and better prepared to accomplish the next challenge."