News Releases

January 26, 2012
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
Telephone: 360-992-2921


Clark College Welcomes Commencement Speaker  J.R. Martinez

The U.S. Army veteran, actor, performer and motivational speaker will present the keynote address
at Clark’s 2012 Commencement Ceremony on June 21

J.R. MartinezVANCOUVER, Wash. – J.R. Martinez, the U.S. Army veteran whose life story has inspired millions through his work as an actor, performer and motivational speaker, will be the keynote speaker at Clark College’s 2012 Commencement Ceremony on June 21.

A highly sought-after motivational speaker, J.R. Martinez was grand marshal in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade.  Martinez was nationally recognized as the champion of season 13 of “Dancing with the Stars.”  He first became widely known through his continuing role as a military veteran on the Emmy® Award-winning “All My Children.” 

Clark’s commencement ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. at the Sleep Country USA Amphitheater, 17200 Northeast Delfel Road, Ridgefield. 

Clark College President Robert K. Knight said, “We are proud to welcome J.R. Martinez, whose life and service to our country is an inspiration.  We know that his story of resilience, optimism and hope will inspire our students as they celebrate this milestone in their education and their lives.” 

About J.R. Martinez

J.R. Martinez was born in 1983, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Maria Zavala. At a young age, he moved to Hope, Arkansas, where he and his mother lived until he was 17. They moved to Dalton, Georgia, just prior to his senior year, to the place he now proudly calls his hometown. In Georgia, Martinez played strong safety on the Catamounts, the Dalton High School football team, and went to the Georgia state championships with his team. Martinez dreamed of playing professional football, but his plan was derailed after a sports injury during his senior year.

J.R. MartinezAfter his high school graduation, Martinez saw a commercial for the Army, which intrigued him. Seeking advice from his football coach about the prospect of joining, he decided to enlist in the United States Army after a visit with an Army recruiter. Martinez was proud to serve, as a way to give something back to a country that had already given so much to him and his family. In September 2002, Martinez underwent Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he gained skills as an 11-B Infantryman. After reporting to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in January of 2003, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

In March 2003, Martinez was deployed to Iraq, and on April 5, less than a month into his deployment, he was serving as a driver of a Humvee in Karbala, when his left front tire hit a land-mine. Three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. Martinez claims that while he was fighting for his life and awaiting medical help in Iraq, his sister Anabel, who passed away when Martinez was a child, appeared to him, giving him the strength to stay alive. After he was pulled out of the Humvee, Martinez was evacuated to a local medic station in Iraq and then Landstuhl, Germany, for immediate care. He was eventually sent to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. Martinez spent 34 months in recovery at BAMC and underwent 33 different surgeries including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.

During his time in recovery, a nurse asked Martinez to speak to a burn patient, who had just seen his body for the first time and had become withdrawn. According to Martinez, after an approximate 45-minute visit, the patient opened the curtain “letting light in his room and his heart.” Martinez then understood the impact he had on this patient and decided to use his experience to help others, visiting with several of the patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs.

Since then, J.R. Martinez has become a highly sought-after motivational speaker, traveling the country to spread his message of resilience and optimism. He is called on by a wide-range of groups, including large corporations, veterans groups, non-profits and schools, and has shared the stage with the likes of global self-help guru Tony Robbins and Evangelist Dave Roever. Martinez has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, PEOPLE magazine, the New York Times, and New York Daily News.  He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes, The View, CNN, Inside Edition, FOX News, Good Morning America, and Univision, along with other major national news outlets.

In October 2008, Martinez stepped into another role, when he was cast as combat veteran Brot Monroe on ABC’s Emmy® Award-winning daytime drama “All My Children.” In fall 2011, Martinez appeared on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” winning the championship trophy and balancing those appearances with his speaking engagements and his extensive charity work.

While his experience was life-changing, J.R. Martinez he claims this is actually a change for the better. He has discovered it is what is inside a person that matters most and devotes himself to showing others the true value in making the most of every situation. “I wouldn’t change anything…absolutely anything!” Martinez says. “I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I’m extremely grateful for that day because it led me into this life!”