Disabled Vet ‘DT’ Del Toro, A Champion Shot-Putter, Aims For Rio Paralympic Games

shot put

Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro throws a shotput during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla., May 10, 2016. He earned a gold medal in the men’s shot put in his disability category. (Defense Department photo/EJ Hersom)

Master Sgt. Israel “DT” Del Toro Jr. was severely burned and wounded during an explosion in Afghanistan 11 years ago. The doctors gave him little chance to live. Now he’s a gold medal shot-putter and the first 100 percent disabled airman to reenlist in the U.S. Air Force. He lives in Colorado Springs where he trains at the Olympic Training Center and hopes to make the team that’s headed to Rio de Janeiro for the paralympics this summer.

See photos and listen to him tell his story on Colorado Matters 

What happened after the roadside bomb exploded under the Humvee Del Toro rode in:

“When I got hit everything slowed and I started thinking of my family. Me and my wife were finally going to get married by the church. We were going to go to Greece for a honeymoon. I was going to teach my son how to play baseball  Then something clicked and I got out of the truck, but when I got out of the truck I was on fire from head to toe. I realized that creek was behind me, so I tried to run to it, but the flames overtook me and I collapsed. I lay there thinking I was going to die there, that I’d broken my promise that I’d always come back, that I would let my son would grow up without his dad. Then one of my teammates helped me up we both jumped in the creek to extinguish the flames.” – See more at: https://www.cpr.org/node/160793/draft#sthash.T3RGXiZZ.dpuf

How he felt the first time he saw himself in a mirror after the accident

I call that my darkest hour. Because I saw myself and I broke down. … I wanted to die….I was thirty years old at the time… if I think I’m a monster what’s my three year old son going to think? Because no father wants his son to be afraid of him.

Seeing his young son after nine months:

He comes running out and he stops and I get scared because … I’m still covered up in bandages and all that and I think oh my god, he’s afraid …he’s not going to want to hold me or anything.  He tilts his head to the left and he says “Papi”  and I’m like “yeah buddy” and he just comes over and gives me the most amazing hug in my life.

Why he re-enlisted despite being 100 percent medically disabled.

It’s very hard to find a job that you truly love and I really love my job. And the other reason is I want to retire on my terms. I don’t want to retire on the terms of the guy who left that bomb to end my life. I don’t want to give them that satisfaction. Maybe I’m stubborn I want to retire when  I’m ready to retire.

Why he’s an athlete:

Sports is a great recovery tool for any person that is going through something like I did…losing fingers, being disabled when you weren’t before. Being able to do sports and know that you can still be outside enjoying life is a very comforting thing.

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