June 25 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Honor to former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first living recipient who served in the Iraq War, for "conspicuous gallantry" in the Second Battle of Fallujah.
The 44-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., received the United States' highest military honor at the White House with 32 former members of his squad in attendance.
"David, today we honor your extraordinary courage, we salute your selfless service, and we thank you for carrying on the legacy of American valor that has always made our blessed nation the strongest and mightiest anywhere in the world," Trump said.
Bellavia received the recognition for his role as squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah. On the night of Nov. 10, 2004, Bellavia is credited with saving the lives of his squad when they came under fire while clearing a building.
With a number of his squad members injured in the firefight, Bellavia entered the building to fire on insurgents hiding throughout the house.
"That night, Bellavia single-handedly saved an entire squad, risking his own life to allow his fellow soldiers to break contact and reorganize when trapped by overwhelming insurgent fire," an Army release on the incident said. "His actions stand as a testament to those who put everything on the line as they do the grim work required to keep each other safe and alive on the battlefield."
After leaving the military in August 2005, Bellavia co-founded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization. He's also worked as an embedded war reporter in Iraq and wrote a book about his experiences in Fallujah titled House to House.
He was the recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star and a number of other military awards and honors. He's also a member of the 2005 class of the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame.
Bellavia's family attended the ceremony, including his wife Deanna and their three children Evan, Ayden and Vivienne, his mother Marilyn, and two brothers Daniel and Rand.