On last night’s Dancing With the Stars, part-Salvadorian J.R. Martinez delivered a performance that got audience members on their feet—and moved him to tears. The 28-year-old soldier-turned-actor and the other show contestants were challenged to choose a song to perform to that reflected the most memorable year in their lives. During a 2003 deployment in Iraq, Martinez suffered burns that covered 40 percent of his body after driving a Humvee over a landmine.
For his performance last night, Martinez chose that year. With partner Karina Smirnoff, he danced a rumba number to Tim McGraw’s "If You’re Reading This," as a tribute to fallen soldiers. After their performance, Smirnoff held Martinez in a tight embrace as the audience gave them a standing ovation. Among the audience members was a special guest of Martinez. The actor invited teenager Jenna Bullen—who also suffered burns on her body due to a hot water heater accident when she was three—to join him on the show and watch his performance.
In an interview with Access Hollywood after the show, Martinez said it was an honor to have shared his story with others, but emphasized that he is not the only one with a history. “It’s all those men and women who didn’t come home, it’s the families that are mourning the losses,” he said, “It’s those families that are trying to put their lives back together that are in the stage that I was in eight years ago.”
Check out Martinez’s moving performance below: