Local News

September 25, 2009

J.R. Martinez: An "incredible leader" making a "profound difference"

J.R. Martinez is a soap opera star. He’s been featured on “Oprah.” He’s appeared on “The View.”

He’s a motivational speaker who has spoken to veterans groups, universities, schools and large companies. He’s spoken at scores of dedications, fundraisers and charity events.

Now, Martinez, a wounded Army veteran and 2002 graduate of Dalton High School, is being recognized once again for his work.

Martinez will be honored by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) organization during its third annual “Heroes Gala” at Gotham Hall in New York City in November. Also being recognized is Van Toffler, president of the MTV Networks Music and Logo Group. Brian Williams, the anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” is the master of ceremonies. Founded in 2004, IAVA bills itself as the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization for veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’ve been out there and I’ve kind of become a face — besides the facial burns that I have — for not only the wounded, but the non-wounded military, the troops and the families,” said Martinez, 26. “I’ve become a face for hope, perseverance, courage. And I don’t walk around bragging, it’s just something that I believe in and I’ve lived it in my life.”

Martinez moved to Dalton when he was 17. After graduating from Dalton High, he enlisted in the Army in September 2002 and went to basic and advanced training at Fort Benning. He reported to Fort Campbell in January 2003 and was assigned to the 2/502 Delta Company. He deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and in April was driving a Humvee when the vehicle’s left front tire hit a land mine. He suffered severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body.

He was eventually taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he spent 34 months in recovery. Martinez has undergone 32 surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.

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