IF YOU GO
What: Dancing With the Stars Chattanooga.
When: 8 p.m. June 23.
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
Tickets: $21-$61.50 general seating; $150 VIP ticket.
More information: 642-TIXS.
• Amanda Buchanan
• John DeMoss
• Anita Oaks Headrick
• Paula Henderson
• Donna Killian
• Jay Robinson
• Stratton Tingle
• Scott Wilson
J.R. Martinez said he was up during the wee hours of the morning for most of May, but it's not the fault of his new infant daughter, Lauryn Anabelle.
"The deadline for my book was June 1," said the "Dancing With the Stars" champ. "I found myself up at 3 (o'clock) in the morning writing. It's a memoir about my life and everything I've experienced. I will talk about 'Dancing' in it, but it's not a tell-all. "
Martinez's book, "Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit," is due to be released in November by Hyperion. However, guests at this month's Dancing With the Stars Chattanooga just might be privy to an excerpt or two when the DWTS champ makes a speaking appearance.
Martinez is the former Dalton, Ga., resident who was severely injured in 2003 shortly after arriving in Iraq with members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division. The Humvee he was driving struck a mine, leaving Martinez with severe burns to 40 percent of his body. He has had more than 30 corrective surgeries to address those injuries.
Dancing With the Stars Chattanooga is a ballroom-dancing benefit for Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. The Partnership is a nonprofit human-services agency offering 20 programs serving families in the Chattanooga area. Although he won the mirror-ball trophy, Martinez won't be dancing but speaking to guests at the fundraiser.
"We're excited to bring in hometown hero J.R. Martinez," said Sandra Hollett, Partnership chief executive officer.
"His life story reflects the Partnership's motto of 'Empowering People To Build Better Lives.' We can't wait to hear what words he has to share with us about his journey and his insider perspective from his time on 'Dancing With the Stars.'"
Since he took home DWTS' trophy, Martinez has become a sought-after celebrity on the speaker's circuit. He said he has given 40 talks so far this year and served as Grand Marshall at the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade. He became a dad the first week of May.
Although people expect him to dance at each appearance, it's not always part of his contract to bust a move, he said.
"I get why people expect that -- that's how they got to know me. People feel a sense of entitlement because they've been on this journey with me, or they voted for me.
"I appreciate it and I'll do what I can for them: take pictures, sign photos. But at the end of the day, I'm not brought in to dance, but to talk about who I am and what I've been able to do with my life."
Martinez has nine speaking topics, which he can present in either Spanish or English. One addresses the universal query: Why do bad things happen to good people?
His opinion is that really isn't the question, but "Why not me?"
"A lot of times people have been living their lives doing everything right, thinking everything's perfect, then some trauma happens. Because we get so caught up in thinking everything is great, we focus only on 'Why me?' We are so focused on why that we eliminate the possibilities.
"Create something better from that trauma, that's what I try to relate to people. Accept it happened, and there is a reason it happened. Take it and make something else from it.
"It's important that people believe they have what it takes to get where they want in life, whether they are plagued by insecurity, loss of love or any other problem. I just want to share the message that stars are beautiful, we look at them every day, but we shouldn't be afraid to reach for them."
"Would Toby Keith's music have made the same impact?"
J.R. Martinez credits his rumba with Karina Smirnoff on "Personal Story Week" as the dance that turned momentum in his favor and showed "Dancing With the Stars" fans that he was a serious contender for the title.
After opening up about third-degree burns he received while serving in Iraq, Martinez danced to Tim McGraw's "If You're Reading This," which is a poignant tribute to wives of fallen servicemen.
Martinez said Toby Keith's "American Soldier" was Smirnoff's first song choice for that dance. Martinez said no "because the song was already played out." She then introduced the McGraw song.
"I'd never heard it, but I thought it was an amazing tribute not only to those who never made it home, but all of those serving in the military and their families."
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...