JR Martinez: AMC's Real-life War Veteran

Soap Opera Weekly had such a great interview with ALL MY CHILDREN’s JR Martinez, Brot’s portrayer, that we’re going to feature it on our site not once, but twice. Here’s Part 1.

Soap Opera Weekly: When did you join the military?
JR Martinez: I joined when I was 18, right out of high school. My job in the military was infantry. Infantry is basically the front line. You’re trained on combat. I chose that because if I was going to go to a war environment, I wanted to feel like I was a part of it, and I wanted to feel I actually did something to help the cause.

Weekly: The day you were injured in Iraq, your Humvee drove over a landmine, throwing three other soldiers from the vehicle. But what happened to you?
Martinez: I was trapped inside the vehicle. The explosion caused a fire. We would rather lose one guy than five, and what that means is if one of our guys [is] injured, then we have to get to a safe point, and once we figure out what’s going on, then we go back to help our fellow service member.

Weekly: So you ended up being trapped in the burning Humvee for 10 to 15 minutes. What were you thinking?
Martinez: “My life will end in another country.” The biggest thing was my mother. My mother was the one who raised me on her own, and she’s basically my best friend. I [was] thinking to myself that my mother was going to be devastated, because she had already lost a daughter when I was 5 years old. I was conscious, and all of this was going through my mind.

Weekly: But they did get you out, and they evacuated you to Germany. What happened there?
Martinez: When I got there, I immediately went into emergency surgery. After about three or four days, I was brought down to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Weekly: And you had been in a coma that whole time — you didn’t wake up until you were back in the United States?
Martinez: Yeah. I got to the U.S. on the 9th of April, four days after my injury. I didn’t come out of my coma until the last week of April. I was back in the States almost three weeks before I came out of it.

Weekly: What was your rehabilitation like?
Martinez: After I came out of the coma, I basically went from being this tough guy — being an athlete in high school to being in the Army and being able to do all the physical things — [to] being somewhat of an infant. Not being able to do anything for myself — the simple things that we do every single day that sometimes we take for granted.

Weekly: When did you first see your wounds?
Martinez: After about the fifth day, I hadn’t seen my body, because there were so many bandages. [The nurse] came into my room and he said, “Okay, JR, we’re going to do your care.” I said, “No. I want to see my face. I want to see my body.” That really shocked him, for me to say that so early on. He said, “No, no, no, not yet.” I said, “I’m 19 years old, and I’m going to have to live with this for the rest of my life; I might as well start learning how to live with it now.” He said, “I can’t argue with you on that. That’s your request. We have to grant it.” He pulled up a mirror, and that’s when everything changed for me. I was called “the pretty boy.” I was always concerned about my looks. When I looked at the mirror, it wasn’t the same thing I was used to seeing. [What I saw] was so devastating, and immediately I became angry, depressed, regretful, you name it — all of these things popped into my head. I said I would have been better off not making it than having to live like this. My mother said something to me: “JR, it’s not about how you look, it’s about who you are. If anyone is going to be in your life, it’s going to be because they love who you are.” Even though it made sense, I continued to argue with her. I said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m going to walk down the street and people are going to stare. People are going to move away out of disgust. There are going to be kids that are going to scream and look at me with fear.” She basically said, “You’ll learn that your personality will shine, and that’s what people will love.” I didn’t even think I had a personality. I was like, “I don’t have a personality, Mom! What the hell am I going to do?! People aren’t going to hang out with me.” To my surprise, when I got out of the hospital, yes, I got stares, yes, kids were afraid, and yes, people stepped away from me. But there were people that didn’t. They showed me that they were giving me the opportunity to [show] the real me, and that’s all that mattered.