Unlocking Inspiration

J.R. Martinez, a badly burned soldier, learns in an unlikely way the impact he's had on a stranger.

- Posted on Jul 18, 2013

J.R. Martinez, winner of Dancing with the Stars

Hero. Wounded warrior. Winner of Dancing With the Stars. Today, J. R. Martinez feels blessed to be an inspiration to millions. There was a time when he wasn’t so sure.

The fall of 2010 was challenging for J.R. He was playing a small but demanding role on the soap opera All My Children, speaking at hospitals, VFW halls, schools, anywhere he could to help people overcome their struggles, as he had.

But the fruits of his labor were hard to see. Sometimes he wondered if he was making any impact in a world full of turmoil. Stopping for gas at the end of another long day, he wanted to get home, curl up with his dog, Romeo, and watch Monday Night Football.

As he filled the tank he heard a click. He tried the car door. Locked. Peering inside, he saw Romeo leaning on the lock button. The keys dangled from the ignition. Great. Just what he needed.

Attempts to get Romeo to unlock the door failed. So J.R. borrowed a phone book and started dialing locksmiths. The third said he’d be right over.

The locksmith looked like he’d had a hard day too. But when he saw J.R., his face lit up. “I know you!” the man said.

A story poured out of him. He and his wife were having problems. One crisis after another tore at their marriage. As much as they loved each other, divorce seemed inevitable. Why is he telling me this? J.R. wondered.

The man spoke about a video he and his wife had seen. The story of a soldier who’d triumphed over terrible burns caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq. J.R.’s story. It had inspired them to recommit to their marriage and face their struggles anew.

J.R. was awestruck. The man’s story was an answer to the question that had so troubled him.

The man went to get his tools. J.R. heard another click. The doors! Romeo had managed to unlock them.

“I guess you didn’t need me after all,” the locksmith said, with a chuckle.

But he did. More than the locksmith could ever know.

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