Sunday’s home game against Denver, proved one for the books. Not only did the Bills come away with a convincing 20-3 win over the AFC West Broncos, they also celebrated the selfless men and women who serve and protect our country to ensure our freedom. The annual “Salute to Service” game, an expansion of the team’s year-round military outreach, featured a pregame ceremony for the ages, as well as commemorative elements throughout the matchup. Complete with a full-field flag unfurl and a military flyover, the Bills also paid special tribute to a local war hero, Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia.
Bellavia, who was born in Buffalo, enlisted in the United States Army in 1999 as an infantryman. After witnessing the devastation caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks, his desire to fight for the country he loved was stronger than ever. In 2004, when he was deployed to Iraq to help with Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bellavia showcased his commitment in the most courageous way possible. While on a mission in Fallujah, Iraq, the 29-year-old and his squad became trapped and under fire, causing him to take swift action. His acts of extreme leadership and bravery saved lives and 15 years later, earned him the Medal of Honor – the highest military distinction one can receive.
Scroll through to view the top photos as the Bills celebrated the NFL's Salute to Service initiative on Sunday, Nov. 24 during the Week 12 game against the Denver Broncos.
Bellavia has been given numerous awards and decorations in recognition of his time in the service, including a Bronze Star. Over the years, Bellavia’s story has touched the hearts of many around the United States. A faithful Bills fan, he was first recognized by the organization in 2007 during a pregame ceremony in which longtime running back Thurman Thomas gave him a custom team jersey with his name on it.
Over a decade later, the Bills invited Bellavia to the field once more during the game’s Third Quarter Break Military Recognition, presented by The Original Pizza Logs. Joining him was Bills Legend and Hall of Fame wide receiver, Andre Reed. It was an emotional moment when Reed presented Bellavia with a ceremonial game ball as a token of thanks.
A memorable experience, Bellavia received a hero’s welcome – a standing ovation from a crowd filled with thousands of cheering and eternally grateful fans.