December 5, 2011
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Iraqi War Hero Champions Intrepid 13 Homecoming
by Neil W. McCabe
An Iraqi war hero has joined the effort by family members to return to American soil the remains of 13 Navy sailors killed in 1804 fighting the Barbary pirates, now heading to conference committee.
"These men were great heroes and they need to come home," said. David Bellavia, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor, and was pinned with the Silver Star and Bronze Star for valor for his service as a squad leader for the 1st Infantry Division in the second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq.
Although an amendment to the House's Defense Department budget directing the Navy to exhume the remains and take such steps, so that they are brought back to America with appropriate honors passed the chamber measure unanimously in May, the Navy has worked behind the scenes to stop the project in the Senate, Bellavia said. When the Senate passed its version of the Defense Department budget, the Intrepid 13 project was left out.
Sen. Dean Heller (R.-Nev.) filed a companion amendment to the House language, but it was blocked from consideration by Sen. John S. McCain III (R.-Ariz.). There was no vote on the amendment.
In the conference committee, representatives from both chambers will forge one bill from the two different bills, which would then go for final approval in each chamber before going to the president.
Intrepid 13 families are counting on their inclusion into the conference bill despite the opposition from McCain, who as the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee has fought the project throughout the process on behalf of the Navy.
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Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans