Now that he’s won Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez won’t be heading to Disneyland.
The 28-year-old Iraq-war-vet-turned-actor will be headed to our nation’s capital for an extra special meet-and-greet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
During a 10-minute telephone call Friday, Panetta told Martinez—who was severely burned over more than 40 percent of his body when the Humvee he was driving for the U.S. Army in Iraq struck a land mine in 2003—that he demonstrated the strength and resilience of wounded veterans, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby.
Meanwhile, the El Salvadoran-American dance champion credited his military training for his performance on ABC’s hit reality dance competition. He bested Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake for the coveted mirror ball trophy on Tuesday.
In a letter to Martinez sent prior to the call, Panetta praised the former Army infantryman, who suffered severe burns when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq in 2003.
“Over the course of this competition, your spirit captivated the nation and your victory sends a powerful message about the strength and resilience of our wounded warriors,” he said.
Details of Martinez’s meeting with Panetta are being hammered out at the moment.