Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A New Life

By Luis Reyes and Lara Chamberlin

The important words, “Life is never a straight line,” resonated in the minds of students at NVCC’s Café West, as motivational speaker J.R. Martinez spoke about his life struggles, what he had gone through and what brought him to who he is today.
Martinez begins by explaining how his mother came from El Salvador to America in pursuit of a better life for her son, who was born on June 14, 1983. Martinez’s mother was left with a difficult choice to leave her daughters in El Salvador so that she could give her son the life her family never achieved. Having his father leave him at nine months, and having a sister he had never met die when he was five years old, left him with somber memories of his life as he grieved for the sister and father he never knew. Martinez remembers Going to El Salvador for the first time and seeing his sister’s grave site. He did not know who she was but he began to cry. Even though he had never met her and she was basically a stranger to him, Martinez’s heart still felt the pain and the loss of losing his sister and this was something he would never forget.
As Martinez grew, he developed a strong motivation to play football and did everything in his power to achieve that goal. He grew up thinking his purpose was to become a N.F.L football player. However, everything he tried never seemed to work out. His grades not being where they needed to be got him suspended off the team. When he finally got the grades he needed for next season, he injured his ankle so bad that he needed surgery and once again he could not play. Martinez did some research and decided to move to Dalton, Georgia, where he could play football for one of the Universities. He went to college and was able to play football, but was notified by the university that he could not play due to his grades. Martinez became angry and refused to go to college because he could not pursue his dreams. However, he still wondered if there was any possible way to turn his dream into reality.
As a last resort, Martinez decided to join the army, where he believed that this was the only option he had left. He joined as an infantry man and was soon sent to the frontlines in Iraq. On April 5th, 2003, Martinez was in the leading vehicle (loaded with enough ammunition to destroy a building) in a convoy of military vehicles when he was fully unaware that he was about to drive over a land mine. Without warning the truck blew up and catapulted every solider out of the vehicle except for the unlucky Martinez. He was conscious as his body was covered in fire. He felt pain as his skin melted from his body. Martinez felt as if this was end. He began to explain how he had given up for the first time in his life and he closed his eyes to accept that it was his time to go. However, Martinez saw a woman…his dead sister. She said to him that “Everything was going to be okay”. Within seconds of these words, Martinez was pulled out of the fire. He survived the fire, but with terrible third-degree burns that covered approximately 40% of his body.
During recovery Martinez wanted to see what he looked like. When he took one look in the mirror and saw the damage to his face and body he considered himself a freak and a monster. Martinez became frightened to even step foot anywhere as people would fear him and walk on the other side of the street. He began to feel as if maybe he was a mistake in this world. Martinez said, “God never gives you something you cannot handle.”
At the hospital and during his recovery he was asked to speak to a certain individual who had similar problems and this changed his life forever. He realized that he could help people by providing them comfort and purpose…this gave Martinez peace and joy.
Martinez was beginning to understand his true purpose in life…a life he was always suppose to have but just never knew. If it wasn’t for his passion for football Martinez would have never taken the paths that lead him to where he is today. When we see and hear the story of a deformed man with a perfect heart it touches us. Most of us have never experienced J.R. Martinez’s pain, but when he speaks to us, it’s as if we were right next to him at the time it occurred.
Martinez was supposed to be marked with his scares and burns to send a message to individuals that the struggles we go through bring us closer to the meaning and purpose of our lives. If J.R. Martinez became a football player, then we would have missed out on the insight that he gained from his experiences. In life, everything has a purpose…though you may not understand it in the beginning, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t in the future. Martinez now understands that, “life is never a straight line.”

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