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“He found a way not just to survive against the odds, but to thrive. He is a study in strength, tenacity, bravery and service,” Stewart said. He called Del Toro, who goes by DT, “a damn miracle,” adding that he is “a solider who has gone through pain and struggling you would not believe just to survive and be here tonight.”
Del Toro, who defied expectations after surviving an explosion in Afghanistan after which he was given a 15 percent chance of survival, received the award for his perseverance, military service and athletic pursuits.
Upon receiving the award, Del Toro said, “I am honored and humbled to receive this award. Receiving this award is still strange for me, I don’t see myself as someone special.”
After thanking his teammates, nurses and family for their support, he added, “Thank you for letting this guy who just had a bad day at work feel like someone special tonight.”
Less than a year after being told he might never walk or breathe normally again, Del Toro successfully walked on his own. He later participated in adaptive sports through his rehabilitation program, and would go on to set multiple world records in shotput, discus and javelin. He also won a gold medal at the 2016 Invictus Games, which were founded by Prince Harry for wounded or sick servicemen and women. Del Toro still serves in the military as the first 100 percent combat-disabled Air Force technician to re-enlist.
The Pat Tillman Award is named for the former NFL player who decided to quit football to join the military after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and later died in Afghanistan from friendly fire.
Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning hosted the awards show.
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