It’s been almost a decade since J.R. Martinez’ humvee hit a mine in Iraq, resulting in severe injuries and burns on his face and more than one-third of his body. Few of us have done in a lifetime what he has done in the nine years since his accident.
Martinez spent little time worried about his scarred appearance. Instead, he started touring the country to speak and motivate other veterans, he got recurring role on the soap opera “All My Children,” and he even won season 13 of “Dancing with the Stars.”
And in the midst of his constant travel engagements, he fit in the time to write a book. “Full of Heart,” which talks about his struggles moving around as a kid with a single mom, not fulfilling his dream to play for the NFL, getting burned in Iraq, and ultimately becoming a dad, hits shelves today.
“I would have to say obviously my injury is a very big deal, but right after that — the moment when my mom was talking to me and saying you have a choice to make to get through this,” Martinez says was his biggest life-changing moment. “When I made the choice, that’s what got me where I am today.”
He says his mom told him, “I don’t know why this happened to you, but if you stay positive, everything will be ok.” Martinez, who has always been extremely close to his Salvadorian mother, says those words stuck with him. That’s when he realized he didn’t have to be a victim.
“I looked at my mom and said, ‘I’m going to be ok, I’m going to be fine,’” says Martinez whose life did turn around for the better after his physically altering accident.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so in tune with things,” says the 29-year-old veteran. “I wouldn’t have learned and had all the experiences I’ve had. The way things worked out is so crazy.”
He says we all sometimes find ourselves in situations that weren’t part of our plan or our goals, but that’s not always a bad thing. That’s what he wants people to take away from his memoir.
“It teaches people we can all overcome,” says Martinez. “Change is scary, and I think my story allows you to understand — you can make it work. We all have the power to make it work. We can find the way to do great things.”
Martinez says there is nothing like having a baby when you’re busy to show you the importance of balance, but he’s not done challenging himself. Next year he wants to concentrate on his acting.
“I had the opportunity on ‘All My Children.’ but now I want to show the humor side of me,” says Martinez. “I want to show that side to people. I am a funny guy and crazy and down to earth.”
And on November 4th, he will be the very last person to start the 2012 ING New York City Marathon, because for every person he passes, Timex will donate $1 to New York Road Runner’s Youth Programs.
“It’s been hard to train because of my travel schedule,” says Martinez who has been in at least five cities in the past week. “I’m counting on my will and people’s support to pull me through. It is important for me to do, because I love being able to raise money for people — that’s just what I love to do.”