Monday, May 9, 2016

Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr Defied The Odds Again

To Hell And Back 
Steve Wulf

Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. emerged from an inferno that ravaged his face and his fingers, but not his heart. By defying the odds and setting world records, Del Toro has inspired warriors and competitors all over the map.

“When the doctor told me I would never walk again, and that I would have to spend the rest of my life on a respirator, I told him, ‘Kiss my ass.’”
The eyes of Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. have seen a lot. The hills of Afghanistan and the mound at Comiskey Park in Chicago. His newborn son and what he thought might be his own death. A life his wife didn't quite deserve and the wedding she did. The ceilings of countless operating rooms and the skies above athletic venues where he would set world records.

On this mid-April day, though, those eyes are focused on the icy road ahead. A freak snowstorm has blown into the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area, but DT -- the name everyone calls him -- needs to get to the local fitness center at Woodmen Hills in Peyton to train for the upcoming second-ever Invictus Games (May 8-12) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. That's where the 41-year-old will compete against other wounded warriors from 13 other countries in the discus, shotput, power lifting and recumbent cycling.

This fitness trip is also an opportunity for some father-son bonding time, so Izzy, his 13-year-old namesake, comes along for the ride in the four-wheel-drive truck. "I apologize," DT says to the visitors. "I'm not in the best condition. I hurt my shoulder a few weeks ago shoveling 4 feet of snow in my driveway."

That said, he would put most other athletes to shame. From a standing position, he starts out by jumping onto a bench about 18 inches high. Again and again, again and again. Then, despite having half-fingers on his right hand and only a thumb on his left hand, he does an impressive series of bench presses, inflating the tattoos on his upper arms -- his guardian angel St. Michael on the left, a self-designed image of a man emerging from flames on the right.
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For 'DT,' recovery was all about family
Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. got third-degree burns on 80 percent of his body in a 2005 IED explosion in Afghanistan. But his love for his wife and son inspired him to survive and recover, and now he will compete in the second Invictus Games. Joe Amon for ESPN

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