Has there ever been a more inspiring winner on "Dancing with the Stars?"
ABC's hit reality dancing competition concluded its 13th season last night by awarding J.R. Martinez and his partner, Karina Smirnoff, the coveted Mirror ball trophy.
“I just want to take a moment and breathe, take it in,” the actor and Iraq war veteran told reporters after the two-hour finale. “The fact that we were able to top it off with this … we created a lot of magical moments together on this show that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives. And my friend won her first mirror ball trophy! Everyone knows she is a beautiful dancer, but I’m able to vouch that she’s also a beautiful person. I’m glad I was able to see that and America was able to see that as well.”
Martinez's journey on "Dancing" is but another storied accomplishment for the 28-year-old. In 2003, while deployed in Iraq, the Humvee he was driving hit a landmine, and the accident resulted in severe burns to over 40 percent of his body. He later spent 34 months at an Army medical center, undergoing 33 cosmetic and skin-graft surgeries. The experience prompted him to become a motivational speaker, working to "spread his message of resilience and optimism."
That determination was on full display all season during "DWTS" — something military psychologist Tony Franklin sees as a huge positive influence for others.
“I think it has an immeasurable impact,” Franklin told the Army Times, “not just for people who have been disfigured or badly burned, but actually for everyone who sees somebody overcome something like this. I think J.R. has made an incredibly bold statement to the world, and especially to wounded warriors, that no matter what happens, you can overcome it.”
For Martinez, who will be the grand marshal of the 2012 Rose Parade, the moment is one to relish.
“There are a lot of challenges we go through in life,” he said after his victory. “Unwillingly, we are put into situations, like what happened to me in Iraq. And like this, I willingly joined the show. But with those challenges, you have to continue to maintain a positive attitude. You’ve got to believe in yourself. I proved to myself that I really can accomplish a lot of things when I’m willing to put my mind to it.”
To learn more about J.R., check out his official website. A clip from one of his winning performances with partner Smirnoff is below.