J. R. Martinez—Iraq War veteran, actor, and motivational speaker—will come to Indiana on September 27, 2012, as the next First Commonwealth Bank Endowed Lecturer. The lecture, presented as part of the Lively Arts’ Ideas and Issues lecture series, begins at 8:00 p.m. in Fisher Auditorium in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Performing Arts Center.
José René Martinez was born on June 14, 1983, in Shreveport, La. At a young age, he and his mother moved to Arkansas, where they lived until he was 17. After moving to Georgia, he played strong safety on his high school football team, going on to the Georgia State Championships with his team. He dreamed of playing professional football, but his plan was derailed after a sports injury during his senior year.
After his high school graduation, Martinez enlisted in the U.S. Army, proud to serve a country that had already given him and his family so much. In September 2002, Martinez underwent basic and advanced training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he gained skills as an 11-B Infantryman. After reporting to Fort Campbell, Ky., in January 2003, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
In March 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. Then, less than a month into his deployment, Martinez was serving as a driver of a Humvee in Karbala when his left front tire hit a landmine. Three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside, resulting in severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. He spent nearly three years in recovery and underwent 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.
Since then, Martinez has become a highly sought-after motivational speaker, traveling the country to spread his message of resilience and optimism. He has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, New York Daily News, and People Magazine. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes, The View, Inside Edition, and Good Morning America, along with additional appearances on major national and international news networks.
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.
Then, in 2011, he was cast on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Partnered with Karina Smirnoff, they became the early favorites on their way to winning the Mirror Ball Trophy.
He and his girlfriend, Diana Gonzalez-Jones, welcomed a baby daughter, Lauryn Anabelle, in May 2012. Also in May, Martinez narrated the CNN documentary Voters in America: Vets Wanted. His book, Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit, will be released in November.
The inaugural First Commonwealth Bank Endowed Lecture in October 2008 featured political commentators James Carville and Mary Matalin. The series continued in 2009 with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and investigative reporter Bob Woodward, followed in 2010 with Apollo commander Captain James Lovell Jr. The 2011 lecturers were outed CIA operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
The lecture is funded by the IUP Student Cooperative Association and First Commonwealth Bank. Tickets are free, but will be required. They will be available starting Tuesday, August 28.
September 27, 20128:00 p.m.Fisher Auditorium, IUP Performing Arts Center
Sharing his story of resilience and optimism, J.R. Martinez is an Iraqi War hero, daytime television actor, and recent champion on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Most recently, Martinez narrated the CNN documentary Voters in America: Vets Wanted. He will speak as the First Commonwealth Bank Endowed Lecturer as part of the Lively Arts Ideas and Issues series.
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