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J.R. Martinez took home the mirror ball trophy on Tuesday night’s finale of the 13th season of Dancing With the Stars. The Iraq veteran received plenty of congratulatory notes, but one in particular probably stood out more than the rest.
Martinez received a note from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta congratulating him on his win, as reported by The Washington Post.
“Your strength and spirit captivated the nation, and your victory sends a strong message about the strength and resilience of our wounded warriors,” Leon Panetta wrote in his note.
Pentagon spokesman Douglas Wilson told The Washington Post that Panetta would like to personally speak with Martinez.
As a newly crowned Dancing champion, Martinez will keep busy in the coming months. He will co-host the pre-show of CNN’s Heroes: An All-Star Tribute on Dec. 11 and is also taking part in the news network’s CNN Heroes: Where Are They Now? special running this Thursday.
Martinez spoke to The Hollywood Reporter after his win on Tuesday night. He had plenty of praise for his professional partner, Karina Smirnoff. “I’m just so grateful that I was able to be part of the journey to help get her first mirror ball trophy. She deserves it. She should be in the elite category of people who’ve won on this show,” Martinez said.
Martinez was the least-familiar face to most people when the cast for Season 13 was announced. He enlisted in the Army in September 2002 and gained skills as an 11-B Infantryman. He was deployed to Iraq and two months later, a Humvee he was driving hit a landmine, trapping him 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. He played Brot Monroe on All My Children for three years, and is also a motivational speaker.
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James Gordon Meek