Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Martinez: Veterans need to ‘find their voice’

J.R. Martinez was just 19 years old when he joined the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq. He was there less than two months when the Humvee he was driving ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), leaving him with burns over 40 percent of body.

“There was definitely a period,” said Martinez, an interview with The State Journal-Register prior to a Veterans Day talk at the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union on Monday, “where I felt and thought (that this is over for me). There wasn’t necessarily anything else for me to hold onto. “There was no face, there was no example of someone who had overcome (something like this), at least as I was able to see.”

It wasn’t until his mother, Maria Zavala — with whom he would watch Mexican telenovelas and proclaim to her that he would star in such shows — “laid into me” that Martinez set about picking up the pieces of his life. “She just said, ‘You have to find a way to be positive, believe something good will happen and have a little bit of faith,’” Martinez recalled. “That stuck with me. It was a small step that led me to where I am today.”

Martinez did, in fact, go on to star in ABC’s “All My Children,” whose character was also a wounded combat veteran. He also teamed up with Karina Smirnoff to win the Mirror Ball Trophy on “Dancing With the Stars.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 11, 2019.

Read the entire article online.