Wednesday, November 23, 2011

J.R. Martinez House !!! J.R. Martinez Home !!! J.R. Martinez From 'DWTS' Helps Get New Home For Iraq Vet Who Underwent 75 Surgeries

Sgt. Joel Tavera has lost his eyesight, right leg and suffered burns on over 60 percent of his body, but he's feeling grateful. The Iraq vet moved into a donated 4,200-square-foot home equipped for his needs on Saturday.

"I'm human. I've faltered a few times, but there's always something that reminds me God is always with me. And lo and behold I got a home," Tavera, 23, told the Associated Press.

J.R. Martinez, a "Dancing With The Stars" finalist and injured Iraq vet, was the one who reached out toBuilding Homes for Heroes to help Tavera. Martinez also invited Tavera to cheer him on in the audience as he tries to claim the "DWTS" grand prize.

"Witnessing Sgt. Tavera's smile despite the circumstances inspires me to this day," Martinez wrote in a blog post, "and it can inspire you as well."

Tavera was severely injured back in 2008 when his Sports Utility Vehicle was struck by five rockets, reports. Three of his comrades were killed and Tavera has undergone 75 surgeries. He still has a few more to go.

Tavera was awarded with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and is ready to move into the house in Tampa that Building Homes for Heroes erected just for him,according to

"He's almost larger than life," Andy Pujol, a spokesperson for the organization told the news outlet. "He's a son to me and a son to a nation. I think if everyone in the world met him, the world would be a better place."


A Queens, NY native, Sgt. Joel Tavera deployed to Iraq when he was 19 years old. He was severely injured the following spring when his humvee was struck with five rockets.

Tavera, one of the most severely wounded Iraq War veterans, has undergone 75 surgeries, according to The vet lost his eyesight, right leg, four fingers and endured burns on more than 60 percent of his body. However, with the support of family and fellow wounded veterans, including J.R. Martinez of "Dancing With The Stars (pictured left)," Tavera has remained upbeat and ready to adjust to his new life

"You have two different choices in life when something like this happens. You either get over it and accept it or be depressed," Tavera told FOX35 News. "I like the whole get over it best, better than being depressed." Building Homes For Heroes gave the injured vet another reason to feel hopeful. The organization presented him with a 4,200-square-foot Tampa house built with his needs in mind.

In addition to getting his new home, Tavera was also honored for his bravery with both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star."I keep on hearing people saying that people are forgetting about the soldiers," Tavera told "It's organizations just like this that show us all that the soldiers have not been forgotten."

Face of bravery

This is who you’ll be talking about on ‘DWTS’

J.R. Martinez knows he’ll get the lion’s share of attention this season on “Dancing With the Stars” -- and not necessarily for his hoofing prowess.

The “All My Children” cast member and newly minted “DWTS” contestant is also an ex-soldier who suffered burns over 40 percent of his body after driving his Humvee over a landmine in Karbala, Iraq in April 2003.

Martinez’s remarkable recovery -- which encompassed three years and 33 grueling surgeries -- left him with a severely scarred face, which is about to become a familiar sight to 20 million viewers each week.

Then & Now: J. R. Martinez as a soldier and as an actor
Then & Now: J. R. Martinez as a soldier and as an actor

J.R. Martinez on 'Dancing With the Stars' Win, Favorite Moments Behind the Scenes

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J.R Martinez, who was crowned the new champion of "Dancing With the Stars" Tuesday night, in one of the closest and most thrilling finales ever, admits that the suspense before the show unveiled the winner was killing him.

"I said to Karina … 'Can they just tell us already?' It seemed like the moment was just lasting forever when they were building up the suspense," the actor and war hero said today on "Good Morning America." "It's amazing. We've all been putting over three months of work into this. To be able to hold that [mirror ball trophy] up was a tremendous honor."

It was also the first win for Martinez's professional partner, Karina Smirnoff. "I think I was screaming so loud, I lost my voice. It is an amazing feeling," she said today on "GMA," "and what a person to share it with."

Martinez, who survived an IED explosion while serving in Iraq that burned 40 percent of his body, danced his heart out against finalists Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake in the two-night finale. Lake, who was leading the pack after the first round of dances, surprisingly failed to advance to the top two, taking third place.

Kardashian, the dark horse of the bunch who had showed tremendous improvement in recent weeks, went on to dance an instant samba against Martinez. Both received perfect scores from the judges, but combined with viewers' votes, Martinez was awarded the mirror ball trophy.

"I literally couldn't have asked myself to have done any better. I went as far as I could go," Kardashian, 24, said. "J.R. deserved that trophy."

All three finalists and their professional partners jumped on a plane after the finale and flew overnight from the ballroom to "Good Morning America's" Times Square studio to celebrate. Fans gathered to serenade the group, who showed a real sense of camaraderie as they answered viewers' questions and dished about what went on behind the scenes.

In between grueling rehearsals, the finalists said they made time for fun, popping into one another's studios and playing pranks.

"We'd take a break but instead of going to sit down, we'd go to everyone else's rehearsal. Just trying to keep everyone's energy up," Martinez explained. "That was the cool thing about it. It was never competitive among us. It was all fun and we cheered everybody on."

Martinez also loved to play practical jokes, putting a fake spider in pro Cheryl Burke's dancing shoes and hiding Rob Kardashian's shoes and cell phone.

"For two hours he didn't rehearse because he was looking for his phone," Martinez added.

Photo credit: Donna Svennevik/ABC

For reality TV royal Rob Kardashian, the best part of his weeks were those very same rehearsals, where he learned the routine from his pro partner, Cheryl Burke.

"I genuinely did like kind of learning a new dance. You start over every single Wednesday, that's the worst part of the week and then you have to learn a whole new dance again in four days, but I enjoyed it," he said.

For 43-year-old Lake, who'd shed serious pounds and came into her own on the show, the experience was physically and mentally challenging but incredibly rewarding.

Photo credit: Donna Svennevik/ABC

"This really is putting everything on the line. Your body is at its limit. You get emotionally caught up in it. You want to win. You know, it's very scary to do these moves in front of 20 million people," she said on "GMA."

"I feel like I'm the every mom ... and I feel like I'm living out the fantasy of all those women out there who wish they could spend the time to learn to dance with Derek [Hough]."

The finalists couldn't stay away from the dance floor for too long, putting back on their dancing shoes to strut their stuff live on "GMA." They also were surprised with greetings their family and friends sent from the ballroom, including messages from Rob Kardashian's sisters and mom, Kris Jenner, Lake's husband and friend Kristie Alley, and Martinez's mother and girlfriend.

Dancers from the Dance With Me Studios, a leading social ballroom studio that such "DWTS" stars as Maks Chmerkovskiy and Tony Dovolani call home, performed a spicy salsa/meringue combo, to end the after-party celebration.

ABC News' Suzan Clarke contributed to this report.


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