Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Army vet, ‘DWTS’ winner J.R. Martinez to speak at UIS

A University of Illinois Springfield spokesman said the school has been trying to “up its game” regarding its Veterans Day events.

Wounded U.S. Army veteran J.R. Martinez, who has carved out a career as an actor, author and speaker, will speak at a public event at the UIS Student Union Ballroom at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Earlier that day, there will be a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Public Affairs Center.

Martinez’s message, said Mark Dochterman, assistant vice chancellor for student engagement, will focus on overcoming adversity and facing life’s challenges. “That’s a message that certainly applies to our student veterans,” Dochterman said, adding that UIS has 275 “military-connected” students and about 50 faculty and staff members who are veterans.

In 2003, Martinez, then 19 years old, was providing an escort to a convoy in Karbala, Iraq, when his Humvee ran over a roadside bomb. Martinez was trapped inside the vehicle when it was engulfed in flames. He sustained burns over 34 percent of his body as well as smoke inhalation.

His story is recounted in the 2012 memoir “Full of My Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit.”

At the Veterans Day event, Dochterman said, a new UIS Veterans Emergency Grant will be launched. It will help student veterans cover bills, food, medical expenses and travel in emergency situations.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 23, 2019.

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