FRIDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- You might have seen J.R. Martinez on ABC's All My Children, where he plays an Iraq War vet with severe burns across much of his body who led his fiancée to believe he was dead rather than reveal his injuries.
Martinez, 27, earned the right to play that role the hard way, to say the least.
In 2003, just a month into his first Iraq deployment as a real-life Army soldier, his Humvee hit a land mine. The explosion caused severe burns to 40 percent of Martinez's body.
Throughout his grueling recovery, which included 32 surgeries, Martinez used his experience to lift the spirits of other military vets recovering from injuries and to raise awareness about the difficulties -- physical, social and emotional -- burn survivors face.
Martinez will speak on Saturday at the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors World Burn Congress in Galveston, Texas. The Phoenix Society works to prevent burn injuries and improve care for burn survivors.
"I know my scars are a powerful tool," Martinez said. "When I walk into a room, people are going to look at me. I use that attention to speak to them and educate them about my world, the burn survivor world."
Martinez was a 19-year-old high school grad in Dalton, Ga. when he enlisted. He went to basic training at Fort Benning and in March 2003, was sent to Iraq.
The April 5 explosion caused the Humvee to burst into flames. Trapped inside, Martinez remembers screaming for someone to let him out. "You can see people running around, but no one is coming to get you," Martinez said. "You feel like you're in a lost place."
His last memory was of being on the ground, held by his sergeant. Then he passed out.
Martinez was flown to Kuwait, then Germany and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The hospital is home to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center, w
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