Senior Master Sergeant Israel “DT” Del Toro’s fight to survive began in 2005 on the side of a mountain near Qalat, Afghanistan, after his Humvee detonated a concealed landmine. He suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body, as well as losing fingers on both hands from the blast. His comrades kept him conscious until DT could be airlifted out by reminding him of the promise he’d made that he would not leave his three year-old son without a father.
After waking up from his coma, Del Toro was given a bleak prognosis and was told he may never walk or breathe on his own again, and that he most definitely would not be able to re-enlist in the military. Despite the myriad obstacles in front of him, DT remained determined and made a promise to himself that he would return to active duty one day. In May 2006, less than a year after the accident, he was walking and breathing on his own, and was awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery in the face of adversity. In 2010 Del Toro achieved his goal, and became the first 100-percent combat disabled Air Force technician to re-enlist, proving once again what one can achieve with steadfast tenacity and determination.
Del Toro has never let his disabilities limit him. In 2014 he participated in the inaugural Invictus Games — a competition for wounded servicemen and women created by Prince Harry. Although he lost his fingers and some vital muscles in the explosion, he was able to lift 215 pounds in the power lifting event. During the second Invictus Games in 2016, Del Toro was honored by President George W. Bush in the opening ceremony. That year he took home a gold medal in shot put.
The love and support of his family – his wife, his son, and his Air Force comrades – made possible a story of overcoming the greatest of odds. A recipient of the Pat Tillman Award at the 2017 ESPYs, DT now shares his story of triumph with audiences across the country, inspiring those that hear it to push themselves further if they know what they’re fighting for.
Through his actions, Del Toro seeks to eliminate the stigma associated with disabilities, and prove that with perseverance no obstacles are insurmountable. Today, Del Toro continues to serve in the military as a member of the US Air Force “Wings of Blue” Parachute Team. He’s also a member of the World Class Athlete program.
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Through many hardships and tribulations, Sgt. Israel “DT” Del Toro’s life has been defined by absolute devotion to family. From an early age, he was thrust into the role of provider for his four siblings. He was 12 when his father died of a heart attack, and a short time later his mother was killed by a drunk driver. As the oldest of four children, and just a teenager, Israel became the provider for his family. “The last thing he ever told me was promise you’ll always take care of your family,” Del Toro said of his father.
That promise, echoed in another he made his son – that he would never have to grow up without a father – got him through many hard days filled with surgeries, skin grafts and grueling physical therapy. Once given a 15 percent chance of survival, he's gone on to not only re-enlist in the Air Force, but also set records and win a gold medal at the 2016 Invictus Games. DT has taken the lessons he learned through hardship and recovery and now finds purpose sharing his story and wisdom with audiences around the country in the hopes of helping others find the light in the darkness.
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