Congrats to Iraq War Veteran and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant J.R. Martinez who will be riding down Colorado Boulevard and tossing the Rose Bowl Coin on January 2, 2012 as the Grand Marshal for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Martinez will serve in honor of all wounded servicemen and servicewomen. The tournament theme this year is “Just Imagine…”, which fits well with Martinez’ experience on DWTS. He is definitely encouraging people to reach higher and try harder.
“When I was first asked to be Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses festivities by President Jackson, I was speechless,” said Martinez. “To be able to participate in this iconic American tradition on New Year’s Day is something I could only imagine. I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m grateful the events of my life have provided me with the opportunity to share my message of hope and possibility on New Year’s Day.”
“J.R. Martinez is an inspiration to us all and a natural fit for our theme ‘Just Imagine…,’” said Rick Jackson, president of the Tournament of Roses. “J.R. is not only a courageous and engaging role model for us all but has dedicated himself to helping not only servicemen and servicewomen, but all Americans facing challenges. His outlook on life is admirable and we couldn’t be happier to have the chance to celebrate the New Year with him as we entertain the millions of fans around the world during the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.”
As Grand Marshal, J.R. Martinez will ride in the 123rd Rose Parade presented by Honda in front of a worldwide television audience, and toss the coin before the 98th Rose Bowl Game® presented by VIZIO on Jan. 2, 2012.
In September 2002, Martinez underwent Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he gained skills as an 11-B Infantryman. After reporting to Fort Campbell, Ky. in January 2003, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
J.R. Martinez was deployed to Iraq in March 2003, and on Apr. 5, 2003, less than a month into his deployment, he was serving as a driver of a Humvee in Karbala when his left front tire hit a land-mine. Three other soldiers with Martinez were ejected from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 40 percent of his body. Martinez spent 34 months in recovery at BAMC and underwent 33 different surgeries including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.
During his time in recovery, a nurse asked Martinez to speak to a burn patient who had become withdrawn after seeing his body for the first time post-injury. After Martinez’ 45-minute visit, the patient began to open up. Seeing the impact a simple visit had on this patient, Martinez decided to use his experience to help others, visiting with several of the patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs. Since then, Martinez has become a highly sought-after motivational speaker, traveling the country to spread his message of resilience and optimism.
In October 2008, Martinez stepped into another role, when he was cast as combat veteran Brot Monroe on ABC’s Emmy Award-winning daytime drama “All My Children.” Today, Martinez also balances his schedule with his speaking engagements, along with his extensive charity work with Operation Finally Home, Phoenix Society, USO, Iraq Star and IAVA to name a few.
Most recently, Martinez was named to the cast of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Partnered with professional dancer, Karina Smirnoff, Martinez has charmed judges and audiences alike with his renditions of the samba and rumba, and even brought the judges to tears when he dedicated his rumba to those who lost their lives during military service.