September 3rd, or now known as “Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Day” was the perfect day to recognize this “amazing American Hero,” said Mayor Tim Baldermann with a short parade and rally at the Village Commons in New Lenox.
Israel Del Toro is a United States Air Force veteran who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2005 when his Humvee hit a bomb and given a small chance to live. He suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body and lost most of his fingers. He was given a 15 percent chance of survival, was in a coma for three months, and when he woke up, was told he might never be able to walk or breathe without a respirator again, and wouldn’t be able to re-enlist.
Master Sgt. Del Toro went on to undergo more than 100 surgeries, and in 2010 became the first airman to re-enlist after becoming eligible for a medical retirement with a 100 percent disability rating. He was also the first disabled airman to be selected for the World Class Athlete Program in Colorado Springs, and participated in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games which was held in Chicago this past July.
Master Sgt. Del Toro has been awarded a Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal in recognition of his actions while serving in the US Air Force in Afghanistan. He also was recently awarded the Pat Tilman Award for Services from ESPN at the ESPY awards.
During the ceremony Mayor Baldermann presented Del Toro with a key to the City of New Lenox and he said even though he is still enlisted, he hopes to someday retire and return to New Lenox, which he considers his hometown. Del Toro said this event meant a lot to him because wounded veterans don’t always get a big welcome when they come home, many times because they’re hospitalized for a long time after their injuries.
“All these awards, they’re great,” Del Toro said. “But I don’t do what I do for awards. I do it to take care of my teammates. I do it to make things better for them, and that’s what any service member will do for their team because we have each other’s back.”