Local News

July 3, 2008

Wounded veteran J.R. Martinez still helping others

J.R. Martinez will be spending Independence Day near Raleigh, N.C., this year. But the Dalton resident wouldn’t have it any other way.

“There’s an Air Force base here outside of Raleigh called Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and they’ve got about 400 airmen that have just recently returned from deployment overseas, and we are putting on a concert for them,” he said.

Martinez serves as a national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.

“We are having a concert here tonight (Thursday), and I’m emceeing. It will be a great chance to go out and have fun with a great group of individuals,” he said.

Martinez, a 2002 Dalton High School graduate, was severely injured while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2003 when the truck he was driving ran over a land mine as it crossed into Iraq. He suffered burns over 35 percent of his body.

“When I was wounded, Dalton, Georgia, really stepped up and assisted my family at a level that I think the rest of America can learn from,” he said.

He said that support has inspired his own efforts with the Coalition.

“We have several programs,” he said.

One of the biggest provides financial assistance to the families of severely wounded service members. Martinez says that the families of these men and women often have to relocate to be close to the hospitals the service members are sent to.

“And they often go to being full-time caregivers. So in a lot of cases, they go from having two incomes to all of a sudden having one income,” he said.

And they can find it difficult to keep up with all the bills coming in.

“So we step in and say ‘We are going to take your mind off that. It’s the last thing you should worry about. We are going to pay six months of your mortgage or we are going to pay six months of your car payments. We are going to give you gift cards, so you can go to stores and buy basic things,’” he said.

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