By Justin M. Hodge
As the saying goes, “If you don’t know, now you know.” I’m here to tell you about the incredible story of a brave man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
This man is Israel Del Toro.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, battled back from an IED explosion in Afghanistan to become the first 100 percent combat disabled technician to re-enlist.
When his convoy hit an improvised explosive device in 2005, Del Toro suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body and lost most of his fingers.
After spending the better part of three months in a coma, doctors told Del Toro that he had a 15 percent chance of survival, and if he did survive, he would not be able to walk, nor would he be able to breathe on his own.
Little did they know, Del Toro was a fighter.
“I pretty much felt like they could go to hell,” Del Toro said.
At that very moment, Israel Del Toro set out to prove everyone wrong.
After undergoing more than 100 surgeries, Del Toro embarked on an almost impossible journey to re-enlist so he could continue to serve with those he calls family.
“I’m not a rich man, I don’t have money, but this is my way to give back,” he said.
In 2010, Technical Sgt. Israel Del Toro saw his hard work and dedication pay off by becoming the first airman to re-enlist after becoming eligible for a medical retirement with 100 percent disability.
Since then he has gone on to inspire everyone he has come in contact with, serving as a Tactical Air Control Party, TACP instructor, becoming a Paralympian setting world records in shot put, discuss and javelin, winning a gold medal at the Invictus Games and traveling around the United States speaking to rooms full of airmen encouraging them to never give up on yourself, or your dreams.
“I know I may not touch everyone; but if I can help that one guy or gal who is at the point of giving up, and I can give them the inspiration to keep living, to enjoy life then it is totally worth any pain I went through during my recovery,” Del Toro said.
Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro was awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service, by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, at the 25th ESPYS award show on July 12.