June 25th, 2006 05:55 EST
Staff Sgt. Israel del Toro Jr. Accepts a Purple Heart
by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo
Air Force Print News
SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- A sergeant severely wounded in action in Afghanistan received the Purple Heart Medal today, pinned on his chest by the Air Force chief of staff.
Staff Sgt. Israel del Toro Jr. accepted the medal from Gen. T. Michael Moseley at a ceremony at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. More than 200 people attended the event, including family members.
The sergeant, supported by family members, fellow controllers, A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots, Soldiers, an Airman Leadership School class and the hospital medical staff was at a loss for words because of the big turnout.
"I'm not a big speech guy," Sergeant del Toro said.
Then he managed to thank his "TACP brothers" and those in attendance for their outpouring of support before he broke down and cried. A family member comforted him and wiped away his tears.
The sergeant, a tactical air control party operator, received severe burns when an improvised explosive device exploded near him while he was on patrol in Afghanistan in early December.
Sergeant del Toro was the controller on a mission with Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Brigade as part of Combined Task Force Bayonet. It is a job for which he is uniquely qualified.
The sergeant is a qualified jumpmaster and master parachutist with 110 jumps. He completed Army air assault training and received his Air Force communications controller badge. The sergeant is also a qualified terminal attack controller.
General Moseley, who also visited Lackland Air Force Base during his San Antonio visit, said it was an honor to be at the ceremony. And he said it was an absolute privilege to wear the same uniform as the sergeant.
"You've come a long way to be able to walk," the general said. "You represent everything good about the Air Force."
SOURCE: U.S. Air Force