I recently had my first Rapid Fire article published in Military Officer magazine. Interviewing veteran/actor JR Martinez who currently stars on daytime's All My Children, I was humbled by his story. At just 300 words or less, however, Rapid Fire pieces are quite short ... so I thought I would post my full submission before it was edited. (My editor did a great job, but I think more of JR's story needs to be heard as his ability to overcome is an inspiration.)

Here is a link to the printed piece.

And here is the original; I hope you like it:

Daytime television’s All My Children has been historically committed to social issues. It’s therefore not surprising that in an effort to raise awareness among audience members, they brought a wounded warrior character – specifically one who fought in the ongoing struggles in Iraq – to the show’s canvas. “We wanted to inspire by integrating the story of an actual veteran, someone who brought an element of reality to the story we were telling,” says Executive Producer Julie Hanan Carruthers.

The show issued a nationwide casting call citing the need to bring validity to the performance and partnering with organizations for technical accuracy. Over 600 applicants were narrowed to a handful who camera-tested. Twenty-six year old retired US Army Corporal J.R. Martinez eventually landed the role.

Cast as Brot Monroe, a soldier whose extensive injuries prompt him to let everyone believe he perished in combat, Martinez was initially offered a 13-week cycle. AMC never anticipated he would earn a pre-Emmy nomination for his portrayal and the character would be moving into his third year on the show.

What makes this tale unique is that Martinez brings so much of his own story to the set each day. Enlisting after 9-11, he was less than one month into his service and on a last minute course change escorting a convoy through the desert when the Humvee he was driving hit a landmine – and he was trapped inside. “I remember laughing at something my Sergeant said, and turning away just as it happened. The landmine was under my front left tire, so it literally exploded right under my feet,” says Martinez. With severe burns on more than forty percent of his body, he spent thirty-four months in the hospital and has undergone thirty-three surgeries to date including skin grafts and cosmetic reconstruction. Eventually transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Martinez says, “That’s where the real war began.”

“He brings so much of his experiences, and the things that made him turn the corner – and we were able to tap into that when he allowed himself to show that emotion on camera,” says Carruthers. “It’s been very powerful.”

The road back was not an easy one, but Martinez began using his account to help others through education and motivational speaking. “It’s important for us all to be a voice. I want to help people; it’s what drives me,” he says. Troops are receptive to his message – thanking him for telling ‘their’ story. Martinez credits his mother with making him realize that the world would ultimately embrace him for who he was rather than what he looked like. Still happy in daytime, today Martinez continues making personal appearances and is writing a book chronicling his journey.

Watch for Martinez to continue with All My Children through their final air date in September 2011.
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