GH’s Maurice Benard is rarely at a loss for words on his video podcast, State Of Mind, but this week he welcomed someone he, himself, called a superhero – Army war veteran and All My Children alum J.R. Martinez and found himself in awe of this man’s story. You will be too.
Maurice Benard And J.R. Martinez: The Roots Of Courage
Most people are lucky enough to meet people in their lives who are charismatic. Every word that drips from their mouth is so inspirational it lights a passion in you to want to somehow contribute to the world and make it a better place. J.R. Martinez is one of those people. From humble beginnings as a boy raised by a single mother from El Salvador to becoming a soldier injured in a bombing in Iraq, only to pull himself together 34 surgeries later to become an actor on All My Children as Brot Monroe, a motivational speaker, winner of Dancing with the Stars Season 13, and a number one best-selling author of Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit.
Benard (Sonny) gave Martinez a warm welcome to show. “When I think about this person, there was a word that came to mind and that was triumph.” Then the host dove right into the interview. “Tell us about where you came from,” Benard prompted.
“I was born in Louisianna. Lived there for the first nine years of my life. My dad left when I was 9 months old. My mom had two kids in Central America. She came here and left them behind,” Martinez explained. “She ended up meeting my father and had me. My father bailed. It was just her and I. So, the first few years of my life I see my mother trying to find love, trying to find relationships, trying to find a role model for me. Unfortunately, she fell into some really bad relationships.”
The speaker and advocate talked about growing up around her abusive relationships and how they shaped him. Moving from Louisiana to Hope, Arkansas, and then at 17 to Dalton, Georgia, where he finally found support and purpose in the community. Eventually, he signed up with the U.S. Army in 2002.
J.R. Martinez: That Life-Changing Moment
Martinez described to Maurice Benard the moment that changed everything for him. “Six months after I joined the military, I am in Iraq. And three of those six months I am in basic. Fast track, four days shy of me being in Iraq an entire month, the humvee that I am driving runs over a roadside bomb. Explodes. I am trapped inside, and it catches on fire. I am completely conscious the entire time that I am trapped inside this humvee, screaming, yelling, pleading, begging for somebody to pull me out.
“Talk about things happening in the moment that you don’t understand until later if you are patient enough.” J.R. Martinez recalled an incident years before: “My sister [Anabel] who passed away. I never met her. I went to El Salvador at age 9. My mother took me to her gravesite. I am standing there bawling. I have no idea why I am bawling my eyes out. It never made sense to me because I didn’t know her. I didn’t meet her. We never played. We never talked. Fast forward 10 years to me in the humvee, in the midst of me screaming and yelling, my sister appears to me and speaks to me and tells me that I am going to be okay. Immediately after, I was pulled out of that RV.”
He shared the moment he first saw himself in the hospital after the accident. “It was like a scene from a soap. Like one of those writers wrote this scene. It was dramatic. It is like the character is sitting there and the camera slowly pans up, makes eye contact with the mirror, and all of the sudden puts up his right arm and literally pushes the mirror away. And what does the script say? Slam to black. And then you go to the commercial.
“One day, after three weeks, after an intense conversation with my mother, I came away with this understanding,” he continued. “I can’t think about the long term. I can’t think about what may or may not happen. I have got to think about what I do have and what is happening. And what is happening is that I am alive. I still have fingers and hands. They are telling me that eventually, I should have a full range of motion, and I can do things. Focus on that.”
J.R. Martinez tapped into how he coped with his physical and emotional healing. “Every morning it was a practice of gratefulness, meditation. Every morning that I woke up I tried to believe that something good was going to come. I tried to have faith. I tried to be positive. I tried to just be J.R., the joking guy. No matter how good or bad the day was I just tried to focus on those three things. Because I eliminated myself from this worry of the long term, I just focused on today. I was able to be present and appreciative, and grateful for this moment that I had. It changed my entire life.”
J.R. Martinez: A New Normal
The best-selling author talked about getting a job, with no acting experience, on All My Children, and how he made it work. “My attitude was that I am going to make this the best three months I possibly can. I would watch Susan Lucci [Erica Kane], Cameron Mathison [Ryan Lavery, now Drew Cain on GH]. I would watch Alicia Minshew [Kendall Hart]. I would watch all these people who trained their whole life for this moment, and I would say to myself, ‘Oh I see what he did there. I see that look in his eyes. I am going to try that. I am going to see if I can do that.’ It turned into six months. Turned into a year. Turned into three years on All My Children. I was on All My Children the last two years in New York and the final year it was in Los Angeles.”
Find out more on his inspirations from daytime soaps, his mirrorball-winning stint on Dancing With The Stars, and how he approaches his motivational speaking engagements. Also, he talks about growing up watching telenovelas, meeting his father for the very first time, and how that brought a sense of peace with his past for him. Catch the entire episode here.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on General Hospital spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
J.R. is an Army veteran, burn survivor, actor, NY Times best-selling author and special man with a huge heart.
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) March 20, 2022
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) March 21, 2022