My new favorite person is J. R. Martinez. You may think I am fickle when you hear that I just became aware of J.R. late yesterday evening and have already elevated him to the level of my new favorite person. Not to worry…once you hear about him you too may designate him as your new favorite person.
In the late evening hours yesterday I sat down in front of the television by myself to catch-up on my DVR recordings of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS). In this house I am alone in my fascination with the DWTS phenomenon and so I am left to sit in a dark room while the rest of my family sleeps to watch my guilty pleasure – shows like this are like porn for the hopelessly sappy. This season of DWTS I tuned in primarily to see Ricki Lake, Chaz Bono, Carson Kressley, Chynna Phillips and Nancy Grace, not even realizing who all the other contestents were (you can see the whole list here). That is how I came upon J.R. Martinez.
Seeing J.R. it is apparent that he has suffered a major burn injury on his face and head. From references in the DWTS clips it was noted that he had served in the military and had been on television. From the statements he made on the show it is clear that he is a lovely human being. But I couldn’t help but wonder given all the above, “Who the heck is this guy?”
So, I do what I always do when I am in doubt about such matters – I Google. It didn’t take much internet research to recognize who I would be rooting for above all others this season – J.R. Martinez.
J.R.’s story is one of both sadness and hope. In 2003 at the age of 20, he was a member of the United States Army serving in Iraq when the vehicle he was driving hit a roadside landmine. He suffered severe burns to over 40% of his body that required 33 cosmetic and skin graft surgeries to get him to where he is today. It was his positive attitude in the face of such injuries that eventually caused him to be asked to speak to other burn patients. The positivity and hope that J.R. was able to deliver to others led to his career as a popular motivational speaker. In late 2008, J.R. joined the cast of All My Children playing an Iraq vet who had been injured in combat.
So today, eight years out from an injury that reshaped his life (he is currently 28) he is on DWTS dancing with Karina Smirnoff and his story – which was perhaps not widely known before - is now being brought to the level of national attention. A young man who in the process of serving his country received a debilitating injury and faced it with courage, hope and optimism and used his life and words to help others – of course I’m a puddle over J.R. – who wouldn’t be?
So, yes…J.R. Martinez is my new favorite person and I will be rooting for him week in and week out…both on the show and in life. What a great reminder he is of the power a strong and hopeful spirit can have in the world and what a fabulous role model he is for us all.
Dance on J.R. ~ in every step you are representin’ so much more than just a quickstep or a cha cha and you are doing it with dignity, grace and an irrepressible joy.
Day eight hundred and seventeen of the new forty – obla di obla da