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The name Jose Rene “J.R.” Martinez may sound familiar to you for a variety of reasons. Maybe you were rooting for him on “Dancing with the Stars,” which he won along with partner Karina Smirnoff. Or maybe you’ve heard one of his motivational speeches. But before all the fame, he served as an army infantryman in Iraq.

On April 5, 2003, Martinez was driving a humvee in Karbala with three other soldiers when they hit a roadside bomb, causing their vehicle to go up in flames. The three soldiers were ejected from the vehicle while Martinez remained trapped inside.

He sustained severe burns to more than 30 percent of his body, and suffered severe smoke inhalation.

In addition to the physical healing and transformation, he’s also undergone 34 surgeries since his accident. His near-death experience inspired him to combine his spirituality with his true grit to help others.

Featured Image: Courtesy of J.R. Martinez’s Facebook page