He is an actor, motivational speaker, veteran, but above all he is a huge inspiration to many. Jose Rene “J.R.” Martinez’ story is a story of great achievements against all odds and on February 20, 2016 he is coming to the Quad Cities to speak at the special event called “Through My Eyes, A New Way to look at Mental Illness”, presented by The Vera French Foundation and Genesis Behavior Health.
J.R. Martinez was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. His mother is originally from El Salvador. When he was still a young boy he, along with his mother, moved to Hope, Arkansas and later while in High School they came to Dalton, Georgia. In 2002, Martinez enlisted in the Army. After completing his Basic and Advanced Training he was awarded the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 11B (infantryman). In January of 2003 he was ordered to report to Fort Campbell and next month he was deployed in the Middle East. That year turned into a turning point in the life of Martinez. Tragedy struck unexpectedly. While driving a Humvee, Martinez unknowingly ran over an IED with the vehicle’s left tire. As a result of this accident Martinez suffered from smoke inhalation and over 34% of his body sustained severe burns. After this horrific accident he was evacuated to Ramstein AB, Germany and later transferred to the Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) located in San Antonio, TX. He survived the explosion, but he had to spent 34 grueling months at BAMC he endured 33 cosmetic surgeries and skin graft surgeries.
In spite of a curveball that fate threw at him, J.R. Martinez did not give up and fighting against all odds he reached for the stars and while doing so, he also had been helping other burn survivors by providing support to them.
Besides working with the burn-survivor community, he also is an actor, radio talk show host and motivational speaker. In 2008, he made an appearance in ABC’s daytime drama All My Children and in the season six finale of Army Wives. In 2013 he starred in syndicated SAF3. This same year he also began to host his radio show on Sunday evenings. Among many accomplishments, his appearance in Season 13 of Dancing with the Stars was a huge inspiration to many in the country. No one could have imagined that he, along with his partner Karina Smirnoff, would be named champion because he had major foot surgery and with the help of his mother he actually had to learn to walk again. In spite of every challenge he faced in his life so far, he did not give up and kept on fighting and, in the process, inspiring everyone to never give up.
The residents of the Quad Cities and surrounding areas have this unique opportunity to hear J.R. Martinez speak in person. On February 20 of 2016 at 7:00 PM he will speak at the Bettendorf High School Performing Arts Center, located at 3333 18th St., Bettendorf, IA. According to the event planners, “Mr. Martinez will inspire the audience to face adversity with optimism and resiliency and to recognize that every person has a worth.” There also will be a VIP meet and greet reception with J.R. Martinez after his speech at Hotel Blackhawk Gold Room starting at 8:30 PM.
“Through My Eyes” is an annual week of events that promotes awareness of mental illness and encourages people to view this problem without the stigma associated with it. It is also a chance for Vera French Community Mental Health Center to raise funds for many important programs that they offer there. The events run from February 17 to February 20 of 2016. For more information, speaker schedule and to buy tickets please visit verafrench.org/throughmyeyes. For more information about Very French Community Mental Health Center please go to www.verafrenchmhc.org