In this image released by ABC-TV, war veteran and actor J.R. Martinez, right, and his partner Karina Smirnoff hold their award after they were crowned champions of the celebrity dance competition series, “Dancing with the Stars,” Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ABC-TV, Adam Taylor)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta invited soldier-turned-actor J.R. Martinez, winner of this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” competition, to meet him at the Pentagon, a spokesman said Friday.
During a 10-minute telephone call Friday, Panetta told the dance champion he demonstrated the strength and resilience of wounded veterans, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said.
Martinez credited his military training for his performance on the ABC show, Kirby said. Martinez and professional partner Karina Smirnoff bested fellow finalists Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake in the finale broadcast Tuesday.
Martinez, 28, was severely burned over more than 40 percent of his body when the Humvee he was driving for the U.S. Army in Iraq struck a land mine in 2003. After dozens of operations during a nearly three-year recovery, Martinez became a motivational speaker and in 2008 won a role on the now-retired ABC soap opera “All My Children.”
Details of Panetta’s meeting with Martinez are being worked out.