David Bellavia will stand before President Trump at the White House on June 25 and receive the nation’s highest military decoration – the Medal of Honor.
The moment, as played out on 3,468 previous occasions in the nation’s history, will prove profound – even sacred. The Lyndonville High School graduate and former University at Buffalo student will be recognized in the most exalted manner the nation offers.
His life will never be the same.
But it will now be up to Bellavia as to just how his life will change. In the short term, he will “re-up” with the Army to act as a goodwill ambassador and symbol of all it stands for. During a Tuesday news conference, he acknowledged that his days as a WBEN Radio talk show co-host are over (at least for now), and that a new call to duty lies ahead.
“I’m going to talk to soldiers, I’m going to go to military bases, I’m going to throw a first pitch or flip a coin or something like that,” he said. “As far as what I feel is worthy of what I want to do, I don’t know. It may be this award means your opinion doesn’t really matter that much anymore.
“It separates you, but at the same time it automatically demands that you are not an individual,” he added. “I’m prepared for that.”
That’s a significant recognition for a high-profile guy who made a living of expressing his conservative political opinions every afternoon on the radio. And it raises the question of whether Bellavia will ever be free to pursue the goal that many Republicans always envisioned – representing the 27th Congressional District.
There is no question Bellavia has always aspired to serve in Congress. Indeed, he ran in the 2012 Republican primary, winning six of the district’s eight counties, but losing after Chris Collins captured the big counties of Erie and Niagara.
And several sources said Bellavia was talking with county leaders last summer about running following Collins’ indictment on federal charges of insider trading. One source reported a similar conversation in recent weeks. Some call it a lifelong ambition.
Now, however, Bellavia knows his whole persona will take on a new meaning as Trump drapes the medal over his neck. Maybe the medal is something bigger even than Congress. A few days ago, he talked about that with The Buffalo News.
“I’m a party guy, I’m a conservative, I’m a Republican. But now I’m a soldier, a veteran, and infantryman,” he said. “There’s no place on a dog tag for a political party at all.
“In 2012, I ran in a primary and all these things were still part of my experience. What difference does an award make?” he added. “I have no need, no desire to draft off the blood of lot of people who sacrificed. I have no interest in using this award as an opportunity to push a candidacy for a party. I think our country is more important than that.”
But what if – and this is a great, big, giant “what if” – after that White House ceremony the president of the United States turns to Bellavia and says: “Hey, Dave. Come back to the Oval Office for a minute. I want to talk to you about something.”
Bellavia acknowledges, like all others asked to serve by a president, that things might change. He addresses that big hypothetical in a most general way.
“It would depend on who asked me and it would depend on what the circumstances are,” he said.
Just about everyone studying the unique circumstances surrounding the 27th District knows that Bellavia is already a player in the race as other Republicans watch from the sidelines.
If he runs, Bellavia would enter with experience from competing in 2012. He would be well-known from his radio talk show, especially now in Erie and Niagara counties where WBEN is strong and where he lost the race last time.
Bellavia, a strong Trump supporter already, will never have to fend off “never Trumper” charges in a district where the president remains uber-popular. And he will be a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
“If that happens, all bets are off,” said one observer close to the situation said about a Bellavia candidacy.
“If David runs, it clears everything,” said another GOP strategist.
Bellavia has all kinds of time to consider his future. There is no question he will back in the Army for the foreseeable future, and that will be just fine with him. Maybe other things lie ahead.
But come early 2020, the 27th District situation will still be waiting on David Bellavia. He must then decide just how we will continue service to his country – already the defining aspect of his life.