First observed in 1950, Armed Forces Day is held annually on the third weekend in May, this year being May 21, 2016. Armed Forces Day honors the dedicated men and woman currently serving in the five branches of the U.S. military.
Air Force Master Sgt., Israel Del Toro, is one of those enlisted in the military. However, his story isn’t a typical one. Del Toro was on deployment in Afghanistan when, on Dec. 4, 2005, an IED explosion severely burned more than 80 percent of his body.
“We crossed this creek and I feel this intense heat blast on my left side,” Del Toro told ESPN.
“People talk about your life flashing in front of you … for me, everything started just coming in waves,” said Del Toro, then a father to a 2-year-old son. “And when I got out of the truck I was on fire from head to toe. I collapsed ‘cause the flames overtook me.”
“I’m thinking I’m gonna die here,” he said.
Del Toro awoke months later in March 2006, in a U.S. military hospital, having almost died three times in the interim. His skin was surgically peeled off and fingers amputated due to the burns, necessary steps to save his life. On top of that, he was unable to walk.
“Learning to walk, you never think it would hurt so much,” he said. “It was just some of the most unbearable pain … but I had to do it,” he said, for his son.
His recovery took three years, undergoing over 120 surgeries. Despite his regained health, the truth is, you never truly recover from such severe injuries, and Del Toro would live the rest of his life with profound disfigurement and amputation. In fact, he was formally deemed by the Air Force as “100% disabled.”
However, despite all that he’d been through, Del Toro wasn’t done serving his country. In 2010, he became the first 100% disabled veteran to re-enlist in the Air Force, becoming Master Sgt. Del Toro, training new recruits to do the job he once was assigned to in the field.
Today, Master Sgt. Del Toro isn’t just continuing to serve his country, but has inspired millions with his plight of ultimate perseverance and dedication.
On this Armed Forces day, Spinlife wants to offer our heartfelt appreciation to the men and women who are serving, and have served, in the U.S. military.