J.R. Martinez Congratulated by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

J.R. Martinez’s list of admirers keeps growing!

The part-Salvadorian Army veteran and new champion of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars received a congratulatory letter recently from the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, People reports.

“Over the course of this competition, your spirit captivated the nation and your victory sends a powerful message about the strength and resilience of our wounded warriors,” Panetta wrote in his letter.

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Martinez and his partner Karina Smirnoff beat out Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke, and Ricki Lake and Derek Hough last week in the show’s two-part series finale.

In addition to the letter, Panetta also spoke to Martinez over the phone for about ten minutes and invited him to the Pentagon. During the phone call, Martinez credited his military training for his performance on Dancing With the Stars.

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A large part of Martinez’s face is scarred due to a life-altering accident he had while serving in the U.S. Army years ago. During a deployment in 2003, Martinez hit a landmine while driving a Humvee and the impact from the explosion left Martinez trapped inside the vehicle, resulting in burns that covered 40 percent of his body. Afterwards, Martinez recovered with more than 30 surgeries and physical therapy.

According to People, Department of Defense spokesman Cap. John Kirby said a meeting is currently being planned for Martinez to visit the Pentagon.

We are overwhelmed with pride for J.R. Congrats!