Iraq War Vet Overcomes Severe Burns

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
May 15, 2008
NBC Nightly News, 7:00 PM
BRIAN WILLIAMS: A quick word about what brings us to soggy Atlanta, Georgia, tonight, a gathering of 36 of the 105 living Medal of Honor recipients, on whose foundation board I serve. The men who have received the nation’s highest award for valor, they have attended various events here in Atlanta today prior to tonight’s black tie dinner.
At these gatherings of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, much of the talk naturally is about this nation’s current wars and the men and women serving in them – their sacrifice, their heroism, their losses, their injuries.
We have an emotional story to close on tonight about an Iraq war vet, a father badly scarred on the outside but unchanged inside. His story comes to us from our NBC station in Chicago, WMAQ, and reporter Anna Davlantes.
ANNA DAVLANTES: Air Force Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro wasn’t supposed to be here to tell his story. A roadside bomb left him with severe external and internal burns. Doctors gave him little chance of even making it. But this is DT today after 97 surgeries.
(Begin interview)
You said people stare. You would like them actually to just come up to you and say hey, what happened?
SGT. ISRAEL DEL TORO: I’ve thought of, you know, making the t-shirt, I’m like, that say, you know, just a little emblem on my chest saying, you know, don’t stare, and on the back saying, you can ask. You know, we’re still human, you know. We may not look what we used to look like but, you know, we still feel, we still, you know – we still feel love, you know.
DAVLANTES: DT represents a growing number of veterans. The advances in medicine make it possible for even the most severely injured to come home, but coming home isn’t without its challenges. DT describes his darkest hour.
DEL TORO: I never once my entire time when I was out wish I died – not once. But when I say my (face ?) I did. I was like, my god, have I become a monster? You know, what’s my little three-year-old son going to think? So I just didn’t want my son to be afraid of me. Almost every guy has a therapist that’s like his angel. He’s like, trust me, your son’s going to love you, man, he’s going to love you. And when my son finally saw me, you know, he just came up and gave me a hug, and that was about the best feeling.
DAVLANTES: He didn’t care?
DEL TORO: He didn’t care. He just wanted to see his dad.
DAVLANTES: His son is now five and said he was his inspiration for living.
DEL TORO: That was one of the things I wanted to be able to do is play catch with my boy.
DAVLANTES: DT threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game last week.
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Israel Del Toro.
DAVLANTES: He says he’s amazed by the special things he gets to do and he’s still struck when people call him a hero.
DEL TORO: I’ve got to say thank you, you know. I just tell them that I was just doing my job. I just don’t see myself as a hero, you know. I was just a regular guy just that loved his job that just happened to get hurt. And if I could, I’ll go back in a heartbeat.
DAVLANTES: Anna Davlantes NBC News, Chicago.
WILLIAMS: In the end it’s a story about inspiration.