President Trump presented the Medal of Honor on Tuesday to former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia for his actions as a squad leader in Fallujah, making him the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the recognition.
President Trump said Bellavia demonstrated "exceptional courage to protect his men and defend this nation," reports Fox News.
During Operation Phantom Fury in 2004, Bellavia's platoon was pinned down while clearing a block of houses. Bellavia then exchanged his M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and entered the house where his squad was trapped to provide cover fire so the soldiers could exit safely, the White House said.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony on Tuesday, Bellavia described receiving the Medal of Honor as "overwhelming."
He told reporters he was proud to be an Iraq War veteran and said it has been "an absolute honor to serve in the U.S. military."
Referring to becoming the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, he said, "This entire thing, I can't even comprehend it."
He added, "I want to thank my Army for giving me purpose, meaning and direction."