“Dancing with the Stars” contestant-to-watch J.R. Martinez received one of the longest standing ovations in the show’s history during Monday night’s episode after discussing the life-altering injuries he suffered while serving in Iraq.
During “Personal Story Week,” the war-vet-turned-soap-star discussed how he sustained burns to 40% of his body when the Humvee he was traveling in hit a landmine while serving in the Army back in 2003. The 28-year-old El Salvadoran-American followed up his poignant story with an emotional moving rumba to Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This,” a song about soldiers killed in action.
Martinez and dancing partner Karina Smirnoff received 26 out of 30 points. The pair tied for second place with Chynna Phillips and Tony Dovolani, only one point behind Ricki Lake and Derek Hough, who earned 27 points.
“It was a touchy night,” says Martinez. “It was really emotional. Karina was telling me in order to get to really that place that we wanted to get to and pay the tribute and honor the men and women and their families the way [we wanted to], I needed to be an open book tonight. I needed to be willing to go to that place and tap into that time in my life when it wasn’t all pictures and fame and everyone caring, and I felt so alone.”
As for the audience response, “it was really moving,” he admitted. “I’ve never cried in front of that many people before. I can honestly say it’s the biggest stage I’ve ever cried on. I think the clear message behind that is that people really appreciate our men and women in the military.”
So what’s next for Martinez after such an emotional week?
“Something completely fun,” he says of his plans to dance a fox trot during next week’s “Movie Week.”