There are those folks who wouldn’t watch a reality show even if it paid for their Dallas Country Club membership fees for a year. But they would declare that “Dancing with the Stars” was by no means a reality show. Nope, they would swear it’s educational and entertaining. And last year’s winner J.R. Martinez elevated to inspirational. The story of a kid whose dreams of becoming a professional football player ended, because injury and military service in Iraq abruptly changed his life, nearly killing him, thanks to a land mine. But J.R. Martinez, like other soldiers, took these developments as challenges. In J.R.’s case, it resulted in his landing gigs on “On My Children” and “DWTS.”
The Nexus group thought they had hit a home run in landing J.R. to speak at their 2012 luncheon benefiting the Nexus Recover Center. However, J.R.’s girlfriend, Diana Gonzalez-Jones, was due to deliver their baby around that same time period, resulting in a change of dates once or maybe twice. He just wasn’t going to miss the birth of his child, but Nexus wasn’t going to miss his presence. So, the group that helps so many in need remained true to the word “flexibility” and moved the date to accommodate baby Martinez.
It was well worth the mobile dates for Co-chairs Misty Smathers and Carole Steele.
At 10:45 the VIP reception took place in the Bush Suite at the Hilton Anatole and the room was heaping with gals wanting to meet J.R. They were swarming for a photo with him. He looked a little stunned by his popularity. At one point he was cajoled into posing with two gals pretending to dance. At another he smiled with Shilah “Miss Texas 2006″ Philips and WFAA’s John McCaa. The J.R. smile never flattened.
A touching moment came when a Vietnam vet approached J.R. and compared assignment duties, with war stories being exchanged. The attitude toward the two wars may have changed over the years, but the scars haven’t.
While open to all inquiries, J.R. would divulge the soon-to-be Martinez baby’s name. (UPDATE: Baby Martinez was born on May 2 and her name is Lauryn Anabelle Martinez with the nickname “Belle.”)
By 11:20 most of the ladies had started ambling down to the Khmer Ballroom with professional dancers kicking up their heels in the hallway every now and then.
Once inside the ballroom the guests included Kim Gatlin, who was on schedule for hip surgery, Caron Center’s Michael Fowler and Amara Durham, Patti Flowers, Jan Osborn, Robin Bagwell, Lynn McBee and Honorary Chair Pat Smith. Alas, Honorary Co-chairs Willa and Mike Modano couldn’t be seen in the crowd, but Pat made up for their MIA by joining the Wounded Warriors and J.R. The guys were a bit amazed at the attention that both J.R. and Pat gave them.
Nexus Women’s Auxiliary President Beverly Barry told the crowd that J.R. had earlier toured the Nexus facility and “his word of inspiration could be seen on the faces of the women and children.”
AT 12:46 emcee John McCaa recognized the table of Wounded Warriors. One guest grumbled, “Why didn’t they get a standing ovation?” Perhaps it was because they were standing and would have been lost in the room full of guests. It was pretty obvious that all were impressed with their presence.
Then John read from his notes that the mirrored balls on the tables were for sale. Looking around the room, it became apparent that not all the tables had balls, but what the heck.
As Shilah “Miss Texas 2006″ Philips sang “God Bless America,” everyone in the room stood. This gal doesn’t need a mic! She was rewarded with a big hug from Pat Smith and a “Wow!” from John.
Guests then lunched except for the Wounded Warriors, who were inundated with well-wishers and Pat and J.R. The WW’s seemed a little surprised, flattered and embarrassed by all the attention.
At 12:15 Shilah sang again and was followed by a video and a talk by Melissa Kelly, a former Nexus client, who called various treatment centers seeking help. All she heard was the centers wanted to know if she had insurance or any money. Finally she ended up going to the Salvation Army for six weeks and then Nexus for four months. She concluded her talk saying, “You have to get rid of all that baggage. . . I found my voice thanks to Nexus.”
At 12:29 J.R. took the runway. He charmed the group with humility and humor saying that when he had lived in Arlington back in 2006, people would ask, “Who shot you?” referring to the “Dallas” TV series.
He told the guests, “We all fight wars in life. . . You need someone to help you understand how to heal yourself.”
At one point a guest sneezed. Without missing a beat, J.R. stopped his talk saying, “Bless you.”
Other highlights in his talk included:
- “To sit next to Pat Smith . . . I’ve got the coolest seat in the house.”
- “It ["Dancing with the Stars"] gives you an opportunity to do something you never did before.”
- People are always asking, “Where’s the mirrored ball?”
- “As I tried to raise it [mirrored ball] up, it [weighing 22 pounds] took two hands.”
He then recalled the years that led up to his present situation including that April 5 when the land mine shattered his then-19-year-old body and changed his destiny. Of course, J.R. couldn’t tell of those days in Iraq and the recovery without some humor. He told how in his first days in the hospital, he thought that it might not be so bad. After all, he had heard about the sponge baths provided by nurses and envisioned falling in love with his beautiful nurse and living happily ever after. “Maybe this won’t be bad. When they talk about nurses, you think of Pat Smith. . . Like ‘The Notebook’. . . just the hospital version.”
In J.R.’s case it didn’t work out that way. His nurse was a guy named Mike who saw him through the days of recovery, both physically and emotionally. At one point, when J.R. demanded a mirror to see his face, Mike suggested that they put it off for another day. J.R. insisted. Upon seeing his face that had been damaged from the mine, he thought, “How am I going to live in this world? I went into this depression hole. I was angry. I didn’t talk to anyone.” He was in a hole for two weeks and then his mother more or less told him to get over it and move on.
Like any good Louisiana son, he followed mama’s suggestion and hasn’t looked back.
By 1:06 J.R. had finished his talk, but he and Nexus continue on with their mission.