Wounded Soldier Inspires Others Through Motivational Speaking & Acting
June 28, 2009
It’s been awhile since I’ve interviewed one of our American Heroes, but I think our readers will be pleased with the Hero that I recently interviewed. J.R. as many of our readers know is a retired Soldier, who was severely injured in Iraq in April 2003, with severe burns over more than 40 percent of his body. J.R. now is acting in the daytime soap opera All My Children, I the role of Brot Monroe. His character served in the Army in Iraq and was injured in combat. He had fell in love with a fellow Soldier while deployed. Due to the severity of his injuries, he decided to allow her to think he had died. J.R. Martinez. was born in Shreveport, La in 1983, the son of an immigrant from El Salvador. J.R. was the first member of his family to be born in the United States. J.R. has two sisters, one sister, Anabel, who died in El Salvador. J.R. was never ever to meet her.
Not being one to watch much television, especially daytime television, I didn’t really think about interviewing someone from one of the many soap operas. My co-workers are avid fans of the daytime soap All My Children and had been talking about J.R. Martinez and how impressed they were by the fact that he was a Soldier, was wounded in combat and was now acting on the show. One day a few months back, one of my co-workers suggested that I attempt to contact J.R. and ask for an interview. I did, not really expecting to hear back from him. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from J.R. agreeing to an interview. I’m glad I made that effort, as it was a great interview, that I’d like to share with our readers.
In high school J.R. got involved in sports, specifically football and had hopes of becoming a Professional Football Player. Because of not keeping his grades up, J.R. was told by college recruiters that he would be ineligible to play football for 2 years. As you can imagine, that was a huge disappointment to J.R. and so he began searching for something else to do with his life. One day he saw a commercial for the Army and decided that he’d check it out.
J.R. enlisted in the Army in September 2002, attended Basic Training and AIT at Fort Benning, Georgia. Afterwards he was assigned to the 101st as a 11B Infantryman. I asked J.R. about his decision to enlist in the Army, what factors led to him making that decision. J.R. shared that being the first in his family to be born in the United States, he felt like he wanted to give back to the country that provided he and his family with the freedoms and opportunity they’ve had. He also knew that the Army would afford him with college tuition, the ability to travel. First and foremost, by joining the Army, he would play a part in protecting this country’s freedoms. I also asked J.R. if he would have made the Army a career, had he not been injured in Iraq.
“When I first joined and was at basic, I wondered what I had done. What I got myself into. After 2 or 3 weeks, I began to really love it. I went to the 101st and was really thinking about staying in and making the Army a career. When I was recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center, a lot of the personnel there thought that I should stay in.”
In 2004 J.R. joined the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes as their national spokesperson. J.R. travels the country as a motivational speaker, sharing his amazing story and showing people first hand the power of positive thought, drive, initiative and determination. He’s also very involved in working with wounded Soldiers, and I’m sure is an amazing inspiration to every one that he comes into contact with.
Knowing that J.R.’s life has made many changes, I asked him if he was considering making acting a career. J.R. shared that he is doing motivational speaking all over the world. He feels that networking is the key in reaching out to others and sharing his story of hope and inspiration, the golden factor to success. He shared that when All My Children announced the story line they were going to put into the show, and announced that they were hoping to find a Soldier or former Soldier to play that role, they sent out a casting call. J.R. shared that he found out about this, when a friend passed an email to him. All My Children had over 600 applicants for the role and J.R. was chosen from those 600. J.R. feels that acting allows him to reach out to the public on an even larger scale, than his motivational speaking work. J.R. shared that he would like to continue acting because of this. Currently he’s unsure if his role on All My Children will continue. He’s under contract until October, but did have a meeting with the show’s producers on the day that I spoke to him.
“It’s a great opportunity to educate Americans about what our Troops go through. The story line is not political in any way, but it shows people that our Troops are serving every day. God gave me a gift that I never knew I had. It’s an opportunity to reach out to all the Troops as well, to tell their stories It allows me to strike while the iron’s hot!”
J.R. shared that his motivational speaking work started quite by accident. He shared that while he was a patient at Brooke Army Medical Center, one of the nurses had asked him to speak with another one of her patients, who was having a difficult time dealing with his injuries. J.R. did so and the impact he made on this fellow Soldier was amazing. Because of the type of injuries that J.R. suffered from, he wasn’t able to have a lot of contact with other people initially, due to the chance of severe infections. J.R. feels that his recovery could have been even quicker, has he been able to see people. After visiting the initial Soldier, J.R. shared that he started visiting other patients, talking to groups at the hospital and eventually that expanded to the media.
J.R. feels that it is very important to give back, to pave a road for people who have been through any kind of tragedy in their lives. He feels that he’s able to show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and for J.R. charity is a very big thing. He fully believes that what goes around, comes around.
J.R. shared that he feels in many ways that our Troops today are very lucky. They’re coming back home to a completely different type of people, not like our Troops returning from Viet Nam. J.R. shared that he’s amazed at all of the different groups out there, who are doing things for our returning Troops.
I asked J.R. if it was difficult from him to make the transition from Soldier to Actor, as well as how it affected him, having to relive his injury and recovery. J.R. said that it was both difficult and easy. He shared that it was easy for him, due to the motivational speaking that he had been doing. He feels that acting is about truth and reality and bringing out that passion. He shared that it can be a painful experience, however he wanted to audience to really get an understanding of what Soldiers and wounded Soldiers go through. I think that J.R. has been able to accomplish that.
J.R. Martinez is an amazing young man. I am inspired by his courage, conviction, dedication to his fellow Soldiers and his willingness to talk about a part of his life that I’m sure is painful to discuss. I wish him good luck in the future, in what ever he chooses to do in his life. He has shown that with a positive attitude, hard work and dedication that anything can be accomplished. He’s an inspiration to not only his fellow wounded warriors but everyone he comes into contact with.
Photos courteosy of J.R. Martinez
To find out more about J.R. and the work he is doing, please visit his website, Know J.R.