Monday night is “fight night” in our house. I want to watch Monday Night Football and my wife wants to watch Dancing with the Stars. I sometimes end up giving in, even on nights when the Giants are playing. Last Monday night October 3, I was deeply touched by several of the dancers but no more so than JR Martinez. If you watch the show you know that the contestants are selected to gain the interest of many different segments of our population. Week three’s theme was to illustrate “The Most Memorable Year of My Life,” with each couple performing a dance to their song of choice. Most of the dances were well performed and highlighted a high point or low point in the participant’s life. But nothing, in my opinion, came close to the performance of JR Martinez.For those of you who don’t know, JR Martinez is an Iraq War veteran, whose Humvee vehicle hit a land mine in April 2003, when he was just 19 years old, disfiguring his face and more than 40 percent of his body. Since his injury, he has undergone 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. His dance was in tribute to the men and women who didn’t make it home from the war zone. It was unbelievable, moving and beautiful. There was not a dry eye in the ballroom when he finished.
JR is not the first person from the disabled community to compete on Dancing with the Stars. In 2008 Marlee Maitland, actress and activist, appeared and danced for three weeks until she was voted off. Ms. Maitland has been deaf since the age of 18 months. Imagine getting out on the dance floor and trying to perform in front of a large audience when you are unable to hear the music. In 2007 Heather Mills appeared even though her left leg below her knee had been amputated in 1993 as a result of a motorcycle accident. She danced with a prosthesis and did quite well. There may have been others but these are the only ones I recall. Perhaps I was watching football. I was amazed and dumbfounded by these contestants on a variety of levels.
For some reason JR Martinez’s performance seems to stand above the others. Disabilities present themselves in thousands of different ways. In a society that worships physical appearance, women, men, and even children are in increasing numbers going to plastic surgeons for operations to improve their physical appearance Mr. Martinez should be an inspiration to all of us. His acceptance of his situation is a lesson we all can learn. His resilience, fortitude and perseverance have enabled him to rise above a situation which could just as easily lead to despair and hopelessness. Those of us in the disabled community would do well to emulate these characteristics. After all there aren’t any attributes in JR Martinez that aren’t in all of us. JR Martinez’s performance made me proud to be a member of the disabled community and I never thought I’d ever say that. So, my friend, if you feel like you need some inspiration look to those members of the disabled community who, like Christopher Reeve, are refusing to allow a disability to determine how they will led their lives.