J.R. Martinez: Messenger of Healing and Hope

Meet J.R. Martinez, Dancing with the Stars winner and author of the new book, Full of Heart.


Hey, what’s going on, guys? It’s me, J. R. Martinez. And a lot of you may remember me from the cover story in may in Guideposts that I was featured in, which was a great story. I know a lot of you have come up to me in the midst of my travels and said hey, we read your story in Guideposts magazine, which I think is really cool. I’m here actually to talk about this story more in depth, which is featured in this book, which is my book, my memoir that came out on October 30, “Full of Heart.” 


One of the things that people know about me is, of course, my military service and my time in the military and being injured overseas in Iraq. You know, my story is simple. I was part of the 101st, a part of the United States Army. And I deployed in March of 2003 and then in April of 2003– on the 5th actually of April 2003. I was driving a Humvee through a city called Karbala when my front lived tire run over a roadside bomb. I ran over the roadside bomb, and I was trapped inside the vehicle. It caught on fire. 

By the time that I was pulled out of the vehicle, I sustained burns to over 34% of my body. From then, I went on to get into the hospital and staying at the hospital for 2 and 1/2 years. And I was 19 years old, you know? And here I was seeing my face on my body for the first time, completely different than what I had ever seen it and devastated and depressed and having regret and to question why, why, why? You know? 

And it really just came down to the fact that I was able to visit another service member that had been injured overseas in Iraq. And he was in the hospital, had just arrived, having a hard time as well. I went in to visit him, and I realized I was able to help my fellow brother. You know, that’s what we talk about in the military is your brothers and sisters. And I realized I was able to help him. And I thought to myself I want to continue to do this. And so I started visiting all the service members that were injured on the burn ward. And then I kind of expanded into the other wards and just visiting patients that were having a hard time and just trying to kind of be an example of hope for them. 

And literally, a year after I was injured, I got involved in a couple of non-profits that help service members and their families with the transition of going back into civilian life. And for me, it was really important to do that, because I was not going to have the opportunity to go back to Iraq and to be with my guys. I was not going to have the opportunity to be able to finish out my tour, what I signed up for. 

And I think that’s one of the most difficult things that service members– we face is because we make a vow. We take that vow, we take that oath, you know? And we commit ourselves to being on this deployment, being with our guys. And when something happens to us, which is outside of our control, we’re still upset about the fact that were not able to be there with our guys. We want to be there with them. 

And so for me, what I’ve learned is that service continues. Service continues. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have the same uniform on. I learned that my new uniform is my scars, is what I’ve been through. My new weapon are my words. And I can serve in a completely different capacity and probably more effectively. 

Change will happen in every single one of our lives. Whether it’s by a choice that we make or it’s unexpected, change will happen. But the important thing is what are you going to do when that change happens? A lot of people have a tendency to do a couple of things. They panic, or they complain about the change, and they wish they were where they used to be, or they’re not where they want to be. 

And what I think it’s important to do is to look at what you have in your presence at that moment, at that time, and say I’m going to find a way to make this work. And I believe in myself, and I believe that I have the tools and everything that I need in order to make this situation work right now. This may not be my ideal situation, but I can make it work. And I can find a way to do two things that I talk about all the time. Adapt and overcome. And as long as you believe that, you will adapt, you will overcome. 

And then the things that have helped me to be able to deal with the unexpected change that has happened in my life consistently is believing in myself, you know? A lot of times, I didn’t believe in maybe what I was doing or what I was going after. But I always believed in myself. I never quitted, and I always implemented a positive attitude. 

And faith was an amazing part of my journey as well. Has been an amazing part, still is an amazing part of my journey. And I implement those things every single day, you know? I’m human. I have my moments where I get down, I get upset, I want to vent, where maybe I just kind of want to have some peace and quiet for a second. 

But at the end of the day, I just snap right out of it. I talk about it. I get it out or write it down. Maybe I listen to a song, something that inspires me. And I feel like I get a little boost, I get a little rejuvenation. And here I am again. Let’s go for another round. 


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