By Staff Sgt. Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — An Airman who faced trials, tribulations, and pushed through to achieve success, piqued the interest from many students at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy and many more members from Team Pete as they filled Peterson Club’s main ballroom for the chance to listen to his story.
The Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1181 council raced through their normal tasks of past business, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities before announcing this month’s guest. This month Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro was their guest speaker.
“One thing we hope people will get from this is whatever you think your situation is, there are ways to overcome it. There are ways to achieve things,” said Staff Sgt. James Howell, AFSA Chapter 1181 communications officer. “Now granted, his story is a lot stronger than probably what anyone else is dealing with, but at least they can hear his situation and hopefully get some encouragement from it.”
“If there is anybody that has the heart about what we do and represents this uniform, it’s Master Sgt. Del Toro,” said Master Sgt. Charles Apodaca, AFSA Chapter 1181 president.
In December 2005 Del Toro, former Tactical Control Party, was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, which caused third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body. In 2010, after five years of recovery, Del Toro became the first Airman 100 percent medically discharged to re-enlist.
“All throughout my journey there were challenges, from a young age losing my parents within a year and half at the age of 12, to going to college, to my grandfather having a stroke, to my sophomore to my grandmother getting cancer, to my career flourishing then getting hit at the prime of my career,” said Del Toro. “Every time I kept pushing, and every time I kept remembering those words ‘strength, faith, honor, take care of your family.’”
Del Toro now works with the World Class Athlete Program at the U.S. Air Force Academy and trains at the Olympic Training Center. He has been a guest speaker at various events telling his story, sharing his challenges and how he got through the worst of times.
“I do this — I keep doing this and I hope you guys take it to effect these words I tell you because the words that my dad told me can evolve to what you do every day,” said Del Toro. “Have honor when you do your job; have faith that your teammates and your Air Force will carry you; have strength in yourself that you can get through any of this; and always take care of your family because your family is not only your immediate family but it is your Air Force family also.”
Del Toro talked about the highlights of his life and also his very low points. But even when he spoke of his low points he was able to find some way to make through.
“A lot of you out there might think I got a bad break, but I am the luckiest man on this earth to have worked in some places that I have,” said Del Toro ending his speech. “I have a wife that is my strength, a son that is all my motivation, but yeah, I might have gotten a bad break but I still have a lot to live for.”
The attendees broke out in a standing ovation.