J.R. Martinez attracted a bit of a different crowd Wednesday than Medal of Honor winner did the day before at .
These people knew he had appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “All My Children.” Women packed the front rows and as Martinez took the stage for his hour-long remarks, a couple let loose with audible sighs and gasps.
Not Justin Bieber-caliber squeals, mind you, but everyone got the message.
But Martinez's and Meyer's stories, shared with the 600-plus attendees of , a conference for caregivers attempting to counsel service members through mental health and addiction woes, were similar in the end.
Both were wounded, and both have come home feeling a responsibility to raise awareness or change perceptions about their fellow military personnel.
Martinez, who suffered second- and third-degree burns while deployed in Iraq in 2003, likened his message to “loose change,” the pleasant surprise one feels when discovering a misplaced $5 bill at the perfect time.
His words, he said, wouldn't necessarily resonate with his audience now, but might be accessed later at just the right moment (hear his story in his own words in the media box).
His visible scars, suffered after his armored vehicle ran over a landmine, he said, are sometimes the ticket to get people to be quiet a little longer and listen to his message.
He warned the professionals in the crowd, however, to remain mindful of “people's scars that you can't see,” the emotional traumas that those who have been in combat carry inside.
Martinez is working on a book that is due to be released this year and is increasing his advocacy for veterans, in hopes of easing unemployment among former troops.
He also continues to take meetings with Hollywood producers, some of whom have frustrated him. He does not like the stereotypical portrayal of a former soldier as a “ticking time bomb,” and has bristled at such acting offers.
That's why a recent pitch from a producer pleased him. The script contained a troubled serviceman character who finds a way to overcome his difficulties and prosper.
“I was like, ‘Yes!’” Martinez said. “That's exactly what I'm talking about. Highlight the problem a little bit, but (also) highlight what the solution can be.”