Colorado war hero reacts to situation unfolding in Afghanistan
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As retired Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro sits in his home thousands of miles away from the chaos in Afghanistan, he remembers clearly what the mission was when he was deployed there back in 2005.
“It was only about four years since 9/11, so it was still personal for us to take out the enemy, get rid of al-Qaeda, to take out the Taliban as much as we can, so we had a purpose.”
Soon, the military mission took on a humanitarian goal, he said.
“We found out that these girls, like in the area that I was at, had never went to school, so they started building a school for these young girls. To be part of that was pretty cool. Going there and seeing those little girls all happy that they were going to school, because under Taliban rule they weren’t allowed to. It was a unique experience mission-wise because, again, I was there to take out the enemy, drive them away, but then also help these girls and all these other minority groups that had no voice under Taliban rule. ... You had to be a hardcore knuckledragger part-time and then a nice, you know, Care Bear for the other part.”
Del Toro’s work was cut short in 2005 when the Humvee he was riding in rolled over a roadside bomb. He was thrown from the vehicle and suffered burns from head to toe. Despite his horrific injuries, he would go on to re-enlist in the military -- the first 100 percent disabled airman to do so -- and wrapped up a 22-year military career in 2019.
He says it’s with a combination of anger, disappointment and sadness that he watches the events unfolding overseas.
“No one expects us to be there forever, but it was the matter of how we left that angers me.”
He says it’s been hard to see the images coming out of the country as U.S. troops left and the Taliban moved in.
“The sadness is probably for the Afghanis, like the interpreters and the young girls probably going back into Taliban rule and not have rights and be second-class citizens. The anger of how we could just leave these guys,” he said.
He compared the situation to the Korean War.
“If we leave South Korea, what do you think is going to happen? We were more as a presence for the Afghanis, to keep them that hope, so that’s where that anger and frustration is.”
And he thinks about what the Afghan people have sacrificed over the last decades.
“People try to think, ‘These guys didn’t give up anything.’ But they’ve lost thousands of Afghani soldiers fighting. But the reason they’ve been able to hold back the Taliban is because they’ve had that support, that close air support, the aircraft, where they knew if they were in a jam, we would be there calling in the air strikes and pushing the enemy back. So imagine not having that support again? They’re demoralized.”
Del Toro says he also thinks of what American soldiers and their families have endured since 2001.
““I don’t say, ‘Was it worth it?’ I would do it all over again if I could. But there are times where it’s like, ‘Is it worth me losing limbs?’ Or the Gold Star families, was it worth us losing our family members. For me, I just wish the exit strategy was a little different.”
“We should be there to just maintain the peace and destroy the enemy, and it’s just frustrating, the ending.”
An ending he hopes involves getting innocent Afghans to safety, particularly those who helped American troops during the 20-year-long war.
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