Known for winning Season 13 of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," J.R. Martinez is an Iraq war veteran, motivational speaker and actor who presents the main keynote the afternoon of July 23 in an event sponsored by Blue Bird Corporation and Cummins, Inc.
In April 2003, at 19 years old, Martinez was serving as a Humvee driver for the U.S. Army in Iraq when his left front tire hit a landmine. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body after being trapped behind the wheel. The rest of his squad was able to evacuate the Humvee and escaped major injuries.
J.R. was eventually removed from the vehicle and was immediately evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, where he spent 34 months in recovery. Since his injury, he has undergone 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. While in recovery, he started speaking to other burn patients in the hospital, sharing his experiences and listening to theirs. News of his story and efforts to help others quickly spread, first on a local level and then to national circuits, leading to appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes, CNN and more.
Bilingual in English and Spanish, J.R. has traveled the country since 2004, spreading his message of resilience and optimism. Today he is a sought-after motivational speaker and has shared the stage with many notable individuals. In October 2008, J.R. joined the cast of ABC's Emmy® Award-winning daytime drama All My Children as combat veteran Brot Monroe.
Born in Shreveport, La., he moved to Hope, Ark., where he and his mother lived until he was 17. They moved to Dalton, Ga., just prior to his senior year, the place J.R. proudly calls his hometown. J.R. continues to balance his motivational speaking engagements and charity work with his acting. He is also busy working on his memoir.