In 2004, Corporal Toloza and a group of Central Americans were in Najaf, Iraq. The El Salvadoran’s went to an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps outpost but ran into some complications, members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
The insurgents caught Toloza and his unit off guard, but they did not want to use their heavy artillery to protect the civilians in the area. However, they were being pelted by RPGs and sniper fire.
After hours of fighting, the “El Sals” ran out of ammunition, and they had one dead and twelve soldiers injured, leaving four to hold off the insurgents. In an interview with Denis Gray, Toloza said, “I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me.”
The four began moving their injured to their truck and tried to get back to base. However, the insurgents saw that as an opportunity to kidnap one of the injured soldiers.
Defending His Unit
Toloza pulled out a 3-inch pocket switchblade and stabbed any insurgents who came near the wounded soldiers. Finally, the fighters decided he was not to be messed with and took a step back.
Toloza did not give up. He kept using his knife to defend himself and his injured friends until the Americans came to help him. The Americans gave Toloza a Bronze Star for valor after seeing what he did to keep his unit alive.
Apparently, his switchblade was a last-minute addition, purchased at a quick PX for a dollar before they headed out. Toloza was nicknamed “El Rambo Salvadororeno” by the Salvadoran media.
Condor, a knife manufacturer, created a tactical switchblade in his honor in 2012. However, the Toloza switchblade is a six-inch opposed to the three-inch blade Cpl. Toloza wielded while he was defending his fellow soldiers.