Leader Spotlight: Christian Bellavia

Our Leader Spotlights offer a glimpse into our diverse leadership: veterans who are continuing to serve their country and community in creative ways. Today, we profiled Christian Bellavia, United States Army veteran and VFAI leader in Charlotte, North Carolina. To hear more from Christian, check out this Charlotte Observer piece from Veterans Day 2017 about his dedication to upholding America’s values-based leadership at home and abroad. Bellavia (above) with one of his interpreters, Alex, at their Combat Outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Tell me about your military service. (What branch? When and where did you serve? Why did you join the military?)

I served on Active Duty in the U.S. Army as a Field Artillery officer from 2012 to 2017. I’m currently still serving in the Army Reserve as an admissions officer in Charlotte, NC for the United States Military Academy at West Point.

During my time on Active Duty, I served with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment across Europe and the Middle East with a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2013-2014 and a deployment to Poland in early 2015.

I also was a Fire Support Instructor for the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It was incredible being in a position to train, inspire, and lead the Army’s newest generation of Artillery officers.

I felt a calling from an early age to be a leader in the military. Over time, I discerned that my calling was to West Point and to be an Army officer.

2.    How did your service shape the person you are today?

My service in the Army had, and continues to have, a significant impact on the person I am today. West Point sharpened me academically, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Leading as a company grade officer in the Army allowed me to develop my own leadership style, to care for soldiers, and to develop other leaders.

West Point’s and the Army’s core values inform who I am as a person. Service for country and for others, especially service for those marginalized by society, is at the core of who I am as a person.

3.  As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?

As a veteran, I feel that our service never stops. Our country gave us so much and it is incumbent upon veterans to give back to our country and to our communities. The United States is hungry for positive leadership and veterans can provide the leadership our country needs at the local, state, and national levels.

Being a veteran in the current “thank you for your service” culture amplifies our voices. People listen. People want to hear our stories. People know that we have been deployed and fought through difficult circumstances. As a result, we have a responsibility not only to continue our service in whatever way we are called, but also to speak up and to speak out for the issues that need our voices.

4.    Tell me about one issue related to those ideals that is of particular importance or concern to you right now. What are you doing about it?

The issue I am most passionate about is immigration. How quickly we have forgotten as a country that we are indeed a country of immigrants. Immigrants have so much to offer our communities and our country. Immigrants have a precious world-view, determination, grit, and a desire to give back. Who doesn’t want those characteristics in a person? However, we keep seeing migrants characterized as a threat, as unwanted, as dangerous. These characterizations, the vast majority of the time, are quite simply untrue.

My passion for immigration led me to Veterans for American Ideals and to serve as the VFAI Charlotte chapter lead. I work with local refugee agencies in Charlotte to aid recently resettled refugees in the community. I also establish and continue relationships with Special Immigration Visa recipients across the United States. Finally, I published an opinion article on Veterans Day in 2017 relaying how our interpreters and translators from Iraq and Afghanistan are veterans too. 

5.    What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?

Veterans have a duty to continue to serve after we take off the uniform. Service is who we are. Service is in our blood. We have a platform, as veterans, to amplify our voices and to make a positive, lasting impact. As veterans, we can be a unifying force. With servant’s hearts, we can show the best of what America has to offer and show that our deepest held ideals and values still exist.