Hero, Actor, Winner of Dancing with the Stars
Long before J.R. Martinez won legions of fans as the winner of Dancing With the Stars, he was inspiring audiences of all kinds with his remarkable story.
Born Jose Rene Martinez to a single mother from El Salvador, his dream was to become a professional football player. His plans derailed by a sports injury, he decided to enlist in the Army, where he was assigned to the Infantry Regimen of the 101st Airborne Division. J.R. saw it as a way to give back to a country that that already given so much to him and his family.
In March 2003, J.R. was deployed to Iraq. Less than a month later, the Humvee he was driving hit a land mine. Three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but J.R. was trapped inside.
Suffering smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34% of his body, J.R. spent the next 34 months in recovery, undergoing 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.
During his time in recovery, a nurse asked him to speak to another burn patient, who had just seen his body for the first time and had become withdrawn. After his visit from J.R., the patient opened the curtain letting light into his room and his heart. J.R. decided to use his experience to help others, visiting with several of the patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs.
J.R. started to get noticed by the national media as he began speaking at events all over the country. His message of resilience and optimism inspired a wide variety of organizations, from corporations to veterans groups and schools. In 2008, J.R. joined the cast of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning daytime drama All My Children as combat veteran Brot Monroe. The show incorporated portions of Martinez’s real life into its fictional storylines.
In 2011, when he won season 13 of Dancing With the Stars , he gained even more fans. His dance moves combined with his powerful story garnered even more notice, including the cover of PEOPLE magazine and numerous honors and recognition by groups nationwide. His book FULL of HEART My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit, will be published in October 2012.
J.R. remains devoted to inspiring people all over the country who are facing their own challenges. And while J.R.’s experience was certainly difficult, he credits it for the life he is living today.
By reaching out to help someone else, he discovered a gift he had within himself.
According to J.R.: “The more heroes we have, the better off our world will be. All of us can have an unimaginable effect on one person with the simple concept of making him or her feel cared for, appreciated and that they matter. Most important, you will learn far more than you ever expected, and that is what’s in it for you.”
Susan McHan is the operational and strategic leader of the retail home lending platform for Flagstar Bank, a top 10 national mortgage lender (Inside Mortgage Finance, 2018), operating in some locations under its brand name Opes Advisors. Before merging with Flagstar Bank in 2017 to become its retail mortgage division, Opes Advisors, Inc. achieved recognition as a top 25 mortgage banking and investment management firm, with volume in excess of $3.2 billion in 2016.
Over the last three decades, McHan has operated as an influential leader in the financial services industry, specializing in retail mortgage. Her experience led her to co-found Elliot Ames, Inc., a high-end mortgage bank and investment services company that was successfully sold to First Horizon Bank Corporation. McHan remained as Regional President and Director of Wealth Management for the California Region of First Horizon until leaving to start Opes Advisors, Inc. in 2004.
At Opes Advisors, Inc., Mchan was instrumental in the invention and implementation of the industry’s first real estate decision technology, OpesAdvantage. This new technology empowered the company’s Mortgage Advisors to provide extraordinary value for clients and real estate agents, by crafting more effective mortgage solutions in the context of each client’s long-term financial concerns, delivered seamlessly through integrated technology. Since the company’s acquisition, McHan has led the development of a powerful “hybrid banking” business model that combines the flexibility of a correspondent lender with the advantages and specialty lending products of a top national bank lender.
McHan has repeatedly been recognized as one of the most respected mortgage executives in the country, named as one of Mortgage Executive Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential Mortgage Executives and honored as a Northern California Real Estate Women of Influence. She also received an Inman Award in 2017 for her innovation and influence in the real estate industry. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Hardin Simmons University, Texas, is a member of the California Mortgage Bankers Association, and lives with her family in Los Altos Hills, California.