On Monday, when the U.S. was busy celebrating the legacy left by human rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, another young man told a standing-room-only crowd about overcoming the event that shattered his dreams and his world.
J.R. Martinez was severely injured in 2003 when the Army Humvee he was travelling in hit a mine and burst into flames. His life was forever changed and now he uses his experience to bring a message of hope to others facing adversity of all kinds.
Martinez appeared at the Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL to talk about that fateful day in Iraq and the long, arduous recovery that followed. Hos sacrifice and suffering led him to want to inspire others through motivational speaking. It also prompted him to write a book about his experiences called “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit.”
He appeared as the keynote speaker at the “Overcoming Challenges…Embracing Hope” event as part of the King Day “Multicultural Taste Celebration.”
Relying on his natural charm and sense of humor at times, Martinez talked about his youth and teenage years in Shreveport, LA and his move to Hope, Ark. where he first dreamed of playing professional football. When the time came for college, he learned he wouldn’t be able to play football for two more years so his life took another direction. At 19, Martinez joined the Army in 2002.
As Martinez turned his story from one of humor and light-heartedness to the day of the bombing, the audience grew somber and silent, hanging on his every word as he described the sound of explosion. J. R. defines that moment as the turning point of his life.
It took more than three years of hospitalizations and 33 surgeries to put J. R. back together and set his feet on their current path. He began by talking to others in the burn unit and helping them deal with their injuries and that led to a calling to do even more. Now, J. R. is a motivational speaker who has touched millions and parlayed his fane into a championship stint on the hit show, “Dancing with the Stars” where he was able to reach millions more.
He ended his speech by asking the audience to take something away with them from his speech, something they could carry with them in their hearts because “you never know when you will need to pay it forward. “