ABC announced the cast of the 13th season of Dancing With The Stars, and J.R. Martinez will be samba dancing his way to a first place finish if he gets his way. The 28-year-old El Salvadorean stars in the network’s award-winning drama All My Children as Brot Monroe, an Iraq veteran.
The role hits close to home because Martinez is actually an Army veteran. During deployment in Iraq in 2003, his Humvee hit a landmine and Martinez was left with burns covering 40 percent of his body. Martinez’s fellow soldiers were thrown from the vehicle from the impact of the explosion, but he remained trapped inside.
In an interview with The American Veteran, Martinez spoke about the moment when he first saw his reflection in a mirror after the accident. “That’s when the anger, that’s when the depression, that’s when the regret for a second kicked in,” he said.
"I have to go into the public and show my face and catch those looks of people here in New York," Martinez continued. "It's one of those things where you've just got to get through it, and you've got to fight the obstacles and you've got to be strong..."
The Louisiana-born soldier was in a medically induced coma and underwent countless surgeries and physical therapy during his recovery. Martinez’s mother, Maria, stood by his side and the two would spend all day watching telenovelas together. "Finally I just got to a point where I'm just going to take it in and watch TV with her. And one day out of a joke I said, 'One day I'm going to be on a soap opera, Mom,'" Martinez said.
During yesterday’s live announcement of the new cast, Martinez shared his goal for participating in the show. “I just want people to take away that no matter through what war or battle that you are fighting, that through positive thinking, through a positive attitude you can overcome,” he said. “I think all of us up here are going to prove that to the 40 million people that watch this show that we are going to push ourselves to go beyond what were thought possible.”
Dancing With The Stars premieres on Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.