Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® Officials do consciously try to find celebrities that best fit the various appearance opportunities that the Festival has to offer each year. Obviously, many roles, such as speakers for the Prayer Brunch, the Business-at-the-Bloom Luncheon, and, the Sports Breakfast are easily delineated. The roles filled by the Parade Marshals, though, aren’t always as easy to categorize. They tend to be famous figures from all walks of life: the military; show business; athletics; government officials. However, for the position of Firefighters’ Marshal, there has always been a premium put on bringing in a person who has made a name for themselves in service to others; or, who has portrayed those who live their lives in service to others. This year, the Festival has accomplished both of these goals with one great celebrity appearance. It is a distinct honor for Festival President, Lou Ann Thompson, to announce that wounded U. S. Army veteran turned successful actor and motivational speaker, J.R. Martinez, will serve as the 2014 Firefighters’ Marshal!
Jose Rene Martinez was born June 14, 1983, in Shreveport, Louisiana. After high school, he joined the army; and, in September of 2002, he underwent Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division; and, in March of 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. On April 5th, less than a month into his deployment, he was driving a Humvee in Karbala when his left front tire hit a roadside bomb. Three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but J.R. was trapped inside and suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body. J.R. was evacuated to a local medic station in Iraq and then to Germany, for immediate care. He spent 34 months in recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; and, has undergone 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. During his recovery, he was asked to speak to another burn patient, who had become withdrawn. After a brief, uplifting visit, J.R. realized the impact he had on this patient and decided to use his experience to help others.
In Los Angeles, after his recovery, J.R. guest starred on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” as a physical therapist in the season finale. In a classic case of “art imitating life,” he played Brot Monroe, a combat veteran who was injured in Iraq and returned home to face civilian life, on the Emmy Award-winning daytime drama “All My Children.” In true Hollywood fashion, what started as a three month story arc, developed into a three year role. J.R. can currently be seen starring as Alfonso Rivera, a Los Angeles paramedic/firefighter and a member of the U.S. Air Force Para/Rescue Team, in the nationally syndicated drama series “SAF3” which premiered September 2013. Martinez is the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit,” a memoir about how he took his own personal tragedy and turned it into inspiration for others. In 2011, he and his dance partner, Karina Smirnoff, won ABC’s season 13 of “Dancing with the Stars.” J.R. has been on the cover of People Magazine, featured in their Sexiest Man Alive issue; and, also one of the magazine’s 25 Most Intriguing People of 2011. He is the recipient of an Ivy Award, for his work with burn survivors and disabled veterans in the entertainment community; the 2012 National Red Cross Spirit Award; and, the 2012 National Disabled American Veteran of the Year Award. Martinez has become a highly sought-after motivational speaker, and he travels the country spreading his message of resilience and optimism.
While he is in Winchester, J.R. will lead the 2014 Firefighters’ Parade on Friday evening, May 2nd; and, will ride in the Grand Feature Parade on Saturday, May 3rd. Please stay tuned for other potential developments!
J.R. Martinez’s appearance is sponsored by Loudoun Mutual Insurance.