Motivational speaker, U.S. Army veteran, Dancing With The Stars winner, actor and best-selling author J.R. Martinez will speak at the Wright State University Academy of Medicine annual dinner and distinguished guest lecture on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Born to a single mother from El Salvador, he dreamed of becoming a professional football player. But his plans were derailed by a sports injury. So he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. In March 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. Less than a month later, the Humvee he was driving in Karbala hit a roadside bomb. The three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside and suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body. He spent the next 34 months in recovery, undergoing 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.
He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit, a memoir about how he took his own personal tragedy and turned it into an inspiration for others.
He also is known for winning season 13 on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars in 2011 with dance partner Karina Smirnoff. Martinez has been recognized with many awards and honors, including an Ivy Award, for his work with burn survivors and disabled veterans. He also was the recipient of the 2012 National Disabled American Veteran of the Year Award.
He has been featured on several talk shows, including 60 Minutes, Ellen and The Oprah Winfrey Show among others. He has been written about in numerous newspaper articles and has guest starred on Lifetime’s Army Wives. He also was on the Emmy Award-wining daytime drama All My Children. He stars as Alfonso Rivera, a Los Angeles paramedic/firefighter and a member of the U.S. Air Force Pararescue team, in the nationally syndicated drama series SaF3 (pronounced SAFE), which premiered in September 2013.
Proceeds from the academy’s annual dinner benefit Wright State University medical students. To learn more about the Academy of Medicine dinner, view the website at http://www.med.wright.edu/