Introducing 'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant J.R. Martinez

For J.R. Martinez, drama is an occupation – and a part of his past. The 28-year-old actor stars in the ABC soap, All My Children. A large part of Martinez’s face is scarred, which serve as clues to a life-altering accident he had while serving in the U.S. Army years ago. The Salvadorian actor has overcome a great deal since then, including more than 30 surgeries and physical therapy. And now, you can see Martinez as part of this season’s Dancing with the Stars (premiering tonight at 8/7c on ABC).

J.R. Martinez and Mark Ballas Get Paired Up on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Martinez was born in Louisiana and later moved to Arkansas. His mother, Maria Zavala, is from El Salvador. After high school, the young Martinez decided to join the U.S. Army and in his website’s biography, said he was proud to serve in the military. For him, it was a way to give back to a country that has given so much to his family. During a deployment in 2003, Martinez was driving a Humvee that hit a landmine. His fellow soldiers were thrown from the vehicle from the impact of the explosion, but Martinez remained trapped inside, suffering burns that covered 40 percent of his body.

Martinez was in a medically induced coma for some time and later, he recalled his mother always by his side. She would watch telenovelas in his hospital room. “Finally I just got to a point where I'm just going to take it in and watch TV with her,” Martinez said in an interview with The American Veteran. “And one day out of a joke I said, 'One day I'm going to be on a soap opera, Mom.” That he did; in 2008, Martinez snagged the role of Brot Monroe in All My Children. Martinez’s character is a combat veteran – a role he was very familiar with. In addition to his role in the soap opera, Martinez also participates in many conferences as a motivational speaker.

Martinez’s story is one of perseverance – and he has said he wouldn’t change anything. Of the day of the accident, Martinez believes everything happens for a reason. “I'm extremely grateful for that day because it led me into this life!” he said.