published Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

J.R. Martinez' effort on 'Dancing With the Stars' an inspiration for Dalton

Dalton friends and supporters watch as J.R. Martinez gets ready to take the stage to dance during the Dancing With the Stars final show on Tuesday evening.
Dalton friends and supporters watch as J.R. Martinez gets ready to take the stage to dance during the Dancing With the Stars final show on Tuesday evening.
Photo by Mariann Martin.
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DALTON, Ga. -- Votin' for J.R.

That is what Dalton residents like Minnie Marsh have done every Monday evening for more than three months, as they put their fingers where their hearts are to support their hometown hero.

"It has been so exciting," said Marsh, who has known J.R. Martinez since he was a Dalton High School senior. "I've been dialing so many different phones all night long and asking all my friends to vote for him, too. J.R. is not only a great dancer, he's an outstanding young man -- a real American hero."

Tuesday evening Marsh met with other Dalton friends at the Bradley Wellness Center to watch the season finale of "Dancing with the Stars."

They cheered when Martinez took the stage and applauded at his lighthearted jive in the dance finale.

Martinez, who played football for Dalton High School, has scored near the top of the competition throughout much of the 13th season of the reality show and won the hearts of thousands of Americans with his quick step and positive spirit.

But Martinez holds a special place in the hearts of Dalton residents, who cheered him on the football field and then welcomed him back home as an injured veteran a few years later.

Martinez was seriously burned when his Humvee hit a land mine while serving in the military.

After enduring dozens of surgeries and months of therapy, Martinez has gone on to become a motivational speaker. He also played an injured war veteran on the daytime soap opera "All My Children."

"We are so proud of him," Marsh said. "He's been an inspiration for so many people, to overcome the difficulties in life, to be strong and go on."

Ballroom dance instructor Nelson Rodriquez attended the viewing party Monday evening. Rodriquez said he doesn't know Martinez personally but he has followed his rise to fame on the screen.

"He is a very talented man who has a real feel for the music," Rodriquez said. "To have gone through so much pain and now to see the beauty of the dance -- he is outstanding."

Martinez will be the grand marshal for Pasadena's 123rd Tournament of Roses on Jan. 2. The theme for this year's parade is "Just Imagine..."

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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