(CBS) – An Air Force veteran who overcame devastating injuries from a bomb blast in Afghanistan gets a warm welcome from his hometown of New Lenox.
Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro says most injured veterans don’t get a welcome home because they’re hospitalized when they return.
The Purple Heart recipient did spend plenty of time in the hospital — in a coma for three months and undergoing more than 100 surgeries to recover from a 2005 blast that burned 80 percent of his body and took most of his fingers.
He joked before a small parade Sunday that he needs to work on his parade wave.
Mayor Tim Baldermann says Del Toro exemplifies the town motto, “home of proud Americans.” He says Del Toro is a true hero.
Del Toro says he re-enlisted in 2010 after his injuries because he wants to retire on his own terms and not on those set by the people who left the bomb on a roadside in Afghanistan.
Several of his Providence High School classmates came out for the parade and rally.
They talked of how incredible it is that Del Toro has kept his sense of humor despite his ordeal and how he’s always cared for friends and family.
He currently teaches parachute teams at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs but says he would like to retire in 2020 and move back to New Lenox.