J.R. Martinez's victory tour brought him to Anderson this week.
There, he talked about his experience in Iraq as well as winning Dancing With the Stars, and being included in People magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive issue.
“After 33 surgeries, I better be!" Martinez joked, referring to the burn treatments and skin graft operations he's endured since being badly hurt in Iraq.
Since 2003, his life story has been one of triumph over adversity.
Martinez began counseling other wounded veterans, then working as a motivational speaker all across the country before landing a role on All My Children.
Now, he's one of 2011's big breakout stars, winning DWTS, being honored by the Defense Department, Grand Marshaling the Rose Parade and so forth.
Martinez said he embraces the opportunities he has, with his newfound fame, to be an advocate for veterans, and says he will always serve our country.
"You can take away my camouflage, you can take away my M16, which is my weapon, but I look at it now... my new weapons are my words and my new uniform is my scars,” he explained. “I'm going to continue to serve in a bigger way.""I feel this is going to be needed with the talks of pulling our guys out of Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing them home ... it’s important for me to be that voice.”
After driving over a landmine, he spent the next "two and a half years in and out of the hospital" undergoing the never-ending procedures to restore his person, adding details about the journey of self-discovery he embarked on in his recovery.
"It was a tough road at 19 years old, to look at your body and your face, and say, 'What am I going to do about this now? How am I going to move forward?'” he said.
"Thinking you're completely alone and no one in the world understands or can relate to you, but luckily, I was able to see a side that I can use my second chance at life as an opportunity to help people with their first chance at life.”
It's not often you look at a celebrity and see a true hero among us, but J.R. may be that person. We wish him the best in all of his continuing endeavors.