Local News

November 14, 2008

Martinez' character on soap opera runs parallel to his life

J.R. Martinez never gets tired of telling his story.

Now, his inspirational story is being brought to a nationwide audience through the power of television.

Martinez, a 2002 Dalton High School graduate, is appearing on ABC’s long-running soap opera “All My Children” as a wounded Iraq veteran who returns home — a role that parallels his life.

“One thing I’ve learned is if I don’t tell my story I potentially miss out on the opportunity to inspire, motivate or help someone,” the 25-year-old Martinez said. “If my gift is a mouth and scars on my body, then I’m going to use it in a powerful way to make an impact.”

His life would change during an Army deployment to Iraq in February 2003. Two months later, the left front tire of a Humvee Martinez was driving hit a landmine. The explosion caused severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body and disfigured his face. Martinez endured 34 months in the hospital and 32 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. He now serves as a national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, which promotes programs to help wounded military members.

The plight of Martinez’ on-screen character is similar.

The character, Brot Monroe, served in the Army and was injured in combat during a deployment to Iraq. While in the Army, he met and fell in love with Lt. Taylor Thompson (actress Beth Ehlers). Monroe lets Taylor believe he’s died because he doesn’t want to burden her with his injuries. Months pass. After several surgeries, Monroe returns to find his fiancee grieving her loss, unaware he is still alive.

Martinez draws on his experiences to give the character depth. He, too, had a difficult time re-entering everyday life, especially the dating world. He knew that women enjoyed his personality and his company, but Martinez felt he was lacking “that initial something that attracts you to someone.” He’s learned to use what he still has: his smile and his eyes.

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