February 11th, 2010 14:34 EST
Airman Celebrates Re-enlistment Five Years After Horrible Injuries
by Sean Bowlin
502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
2/9/2010 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Almost five years and 120 surgeries after his vehicle passed over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan that exploded, burning more than 80 percent of his body, Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro raised his right hand Feb. 8 and re-enlisted in the Air Force.
Maj. Gen Anthony Przybyslawski, the vice commander of Air Education and Training Command, administered the oath of enlistment to Sergeant Del Toro in the nearly packed base theater.
General Przybyslawski told an audience of family members, dignitaries, visitors, friends and many first-term Airmen that the sergeant, who spent three months in a coma after his injuries and was given a less-than-20-percent chance of survival, fought for more than four months to stay in the Air Force. The general said that Sergeant Del Toro`s experience and his desire to serve is something the Air Force needs.
"He`s bringing back his skills to the Air Force as a tactical air (control) party controller. He`s going to be an instructor," General Przybyslawski said. "He has credibility and the ability to teach from experience. That`s why we need him; that`s why we want him. He`s going to serve us and he`s back on the job."
Doctors told Sergeant Del Toro he`d never walk again but he is now running 10K races and lifting weights
The general said Sergeant Del Toro may look different with burnt skin, "but he`s not different in here," tapping his heart. "He`s got the spirit, the heart and desire to re-enlist. Being in the Air Force is not all about him. It`s about what he`s going to contribute. So," he said with a smile, "get ready for four more years."
After General Przybyslawski administered the oath to Sergeant Del Toro, the sergeant thanked all the friends, fellow Airmen, family members and the Air Force for supporting him in his quest to get healthier and re-enlist.
"I did it for the guys who`ll be following me," he said, explaining that he`ll be teaching TACP controllers how to do their jobs and survive on the battlefield. "I fought hard. I didn`t always say what I said during that fight correctly. But I appreciate that I get the chance to stay in the Air Force for four more years. I`m not in limbo anymore."
Sergeant Del Toro said that previously he had received the results of a medical board which offered him two options. Option one was to retire with a 100 percent disability and teach and recruit TACP students as an Air Force civilian. Option two was to stay in uniform for four more years and perform the same job.
"They let me decide what to do," he explained. "I could have gotten out and made more money. But it wasn`t about the money."
He said he hoped to serve for the next four years without medical incident.
"I don`t know yet how my body will react in the field environment," he said.
But he`s putting a lot of stress on himself working out without injuring himself. He`s also scheduled to compete in the Military Games in May.
The sergeant said he knows he`s a groundbreaker, "a prototype," being able to re-enlist with 100 percent disability status.
"But I`m here and I`m doing it," he said. "And, if one guy here gets hurt badly doing what I`ve done, the Air Force will stand behind him."