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Disneyland Goes All Out To Salute Iraq Vet, Medal of Honor Recipient

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When former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia came to Disneyland, the iconic attraction gave the Medal of Honor recipient a hero’s welcome.

Bellavia won the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of others during the November 2004 struggle for Fallujah during the Iraq War.

All that was distant on a recent Saturday when he and his family visited Disneyland, where during the daily flag retreat ceremony, Disney Ambassador Rafa Barron presented Bellavia with a certificate declaring him an “Honorary Citizen of the Disneyland Resort.”

“David is a hero,” said Jason Kolons, a senior mechanical engineer at the park and a member of Disney’s SALUTE team that works with veterans, according to the Disney Parks blog.

“This is a very patriotic ceremony, and I’m impressed with the way the Disneyland Resort has treated me and our veterans who have served in other generations across all branches of the military,” Bellavia said.

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After the ceremony, Marine Corps veteran Douglas Settell of Sacramento thanked Bellavia for his service, the LAist reported.

“It’s an honor,” Settell said. “It’s all about the team. They go through a lot to make sure that everybody hopefully makes it back.”

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Bellavia said that he has a mission.

“I want to remind people about the men I served with. And also the fact that young people need to put their communities and their country before themselves.”

He admitted he came to southern California with some trepidation, fearing that as a veteran he would be unwelcome.

“Our cable news tells us they hate the military, and they hate us.”

Reality has been far different, Bellavia said.

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“When I came to L.A. and New York, I thought I was going to have to fight off protesters and whatnot. None of that’s true. I’m just surrounded by kindness and love and people that are appreciative. And everyone is so respectful and so kind.”

“I want people to just get rid of all of the stigma and the cliches. We’re healthy as a country and as a people. We might not agree with who holds what office, but our military is beloved, our citizens are appreciative of our freedoms, and I’m seeing that firsthand across the country,” he said.

Bellavia was awarded his medal on June 25 by President Donald Trump.

“America’s blessed with the heroes and great people, like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag,” Trump said at the ceremony, according to the Army Times.

“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 ―and we’re doing better today than we have ever done,” Trump said.

On the day he was honored, Bellavia spoke to the media about the day of the incident where he earned the Medal of Honor.

“The first thing you’re thinking about is, I mean, you’re scared,” he told reporters Monday. “Your life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking about is, you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us? How dare you try to step up against the United States military?”

“But the other thing is, you have people that they day before, risked their life to save you. You have people the following two days would risk their lives to save you. And you have people within 24 hours who are killed in direct fire attacks that are your senior leadership,” he said.

Bellavia was honored for entering a house held by insurgents, clearing the house of enemy fighters.

“What he did, going back into that nightmare, saved all those men’s lives,” said journalist Michael Ware, who was embedded with the unit while writing for Time.

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