Veteran J. R. Martinez recently told his story at the local college here in upstate New York but only after asking everyone to listen, not just hear what he had to say. Jose Rene Martinez joined the United States Army and underwent Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2002. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and served less than one month before becoming involved in a horrendous accident. “The Humvee I was driving hit a landmine, it flipped and blew up in flames,” said Martinez. “I was conscious the whole time and watched my body burn.”
The college kids knew Martinez as an actor on the Television daytime drama “All My Children” and as a dancer on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Who saw me dance,” asked Martinez. Hands went up in the air. Martinez was personable, honest, energized, and connected. His interest in the audience prompted him to question, “Who follows me on Twitter?” More hands went up in the air.
But, on a solemn note, Martinez explained how, after his accident in Iraq, he was evacuated to a local medic station and then to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent 33 surgeries. He tried to explain what it was like to be burned and disfigured. “Has anyone here been burned?” I raised my hand.
I only had second degree burns on half of my face, however I remember when I finally could walk again I would cover my face with a veil so no one would have to see my disfigured face. I didn’t have surgery. The nurses told me, with happy surprise, new skin started growing quickly. But, it didn’t look like it for a while. I kept praying for the consciousness of the substance of Spirit, unalterable, healthy, strong, whole, undamaged, beautiful. Within 3 weeks, my skin healed. There are no scars.
An audience member asked Martinez if his faith or spirituality played a role in his recovery. “Yes,” answered Martinez who has devoted himself to encouraging others to overcome difficulties in life. “It’s what is inside the person that matters.”