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'Dancing With the Stars' Cast: Who Is J.R. Martinez?

The "All My Children" actor is actually an Iraq war veteran with an interesting backstory.

J. R. Martinez DWTS Headshot - P 2011
David Becker/Getty Images

ABC revealed the cast for the 13th season of Dancing With the Stars on Monday night, and among the contestants are such familiar faces as Nancy Grace, David Arquette and Kristin Cavallari.

But also grouped in with the more recognizable names was J.R. Martinez. While it's true that Martinez can list his current profession as actor on ABC's All My Children, he has a far more intriguing backstory that DWTS fans not be familiar with.

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Martinez actually started his working career in the Army, enlisting in September 2002 and gaining skills as an 11-B Infantryman.

Six months after enlisting, he was deployed to Iraq. Two months later, he was driving a Humvee when the front left tire hit a landmine and he was trapped inside the vehicle.

While the other three soldiers in the vehicle walked away with minor injuries, Martinez suffered severe burns that resulted in 32 surgeries over 34 months.

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"I was trapped inside the vehicle for about 10 minutes, conscious and can literally see my life slipping away from me," he told CNN in 2009. "You know, my mother is my best friend and I kind of had the visual of my mother, and them handing her a flag and I thought to myself, that's not something I want to put my mother through."

He said he had lots of bad days while recovering but forced himself to push through the worst of it.

"Another obstacle [is] where I have to go into the public and show my face and catch those looks of people here in New York," he said. "It's one of those things where you've just got to get through it, and you've got to fight the obstacles and you've got to be strong and you say, 'You know what? I have hope and I believe and I'm never going to quit.'"

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In 2008, Martinez landed his role on All My Children. He considers the career switch ironic since he would lie in bed in the hospital watching telenovelas -- Spanish soaps -- with his mother every night.

"And there wasn't nothing I could do about it," he said. "So I just sat there. And finally I just got to a point where I'm just going to take it in and watch TV with her. And one day out of a joke I said, 'One day I'm going to be on a soap opera, Mom.'"

Martinez believes the role -- in which he plays an injured Iraq war veteran -- has been therapeutic for him.

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"A lot of us, we go through things in life sometimes and we don't want to sit there and go back to remember it," he said. "But it's good to go back and remember it and it's good to talk about it, whether it's to yourself or a piece of paper or whether it's to an audience or a camera like I am doing right now."

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