War vet-turned-soap star J.R. Martinez earned one of the longest standing ovations in recent memory on Dancing with the Stars Monday when he opened up about the severe injuries he sustained while stationed in Iraq.
As part of personal story week, the All My Children star explained how he suffered burns to 40% of his body in 2003 after his Humvee hit a landmine while serving as an Army infantryman. His emotional story was followed by a moving rumba with partner Karina Smirnoff — which prompted a teary-eyed Carrie Ann Inaba to say “you touched us all.”
The pair earned 26 out of 30 points, leaving them tied for second place with Chynna Phillips and Tony Dovolani. (Ricki Lake and Derek Hough earned the top score of the night of a 27).
“It was a touchy night,” Martinez told reporters after the show. “It was really emotional. Karina was telling me in order to get to really that place that we wanted to get to and pay the tribute and honor the men and women and their families the way [we wanted to], I needed to be an open book tonight. I needed to be willing to go to that place and tap into that time in my life when it wasn’t all pictures and fame and everyone caring, and I felt so alone.”
As for the audience response, “it was really moving,” he admitted. “I’ve never cried in front of that many people before. I can honestly say it’s the biggest stage I’ve ever cried on. I think the clear message behind that is that people really appreciate our men and women in the military.”
“It’s an honor to be able to be a part of this dance with J.R. and to reach out and to have that kind of response in the ballroom and people crying with us,” continued Smirnoff. “It’s so much bigger than us. Whether we win or not, it’ll be a dance we’ll never forget.”
The pair plans to do a complete 180 for next week’s Movie Week, when they plan to dance a fox trot. “We are going to turn the table,” said Martinez. “We can’t do this every week. This is tough. So next week, if we get there, we have something completely fun.”