Wounded U.S. Army veteran and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez – who also has won “Dancing With the Stars” – will serve as Myrtle Beach’s Military Appreciation Days grand marshal.
Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea, who works with the city’s Military Appreciation Days committee, said the group was excited to have Martinez lead the parade next year.
“We’ve tried to get him a couple of times, but he had other commitments,” Kruea said. “It worked out this time.”
The parade will take place on May 16 – Armed Forces Day – after city officials moved the date so that all public safety officers can focus their attention on safety during Memorial Day weekend.
Military Appreciation Days committee members said in September – when it was announced the parade would occur earlier in May – that moving the event to a different weekend could make it easier to get big names to serve as the grand marshal.
Previous grand marshals include Montel Williams, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Sen. John McCain and former Pittsburgh Steeler and U.S. Army veteran Rocky Bleier.
Three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard during Memorial Day weekend. Tens of thousands of people travel to the Grand Strand that weekend to participate in Atlantic Beach Bikefest, Military Appreciation Days or to take advantage of a three-day weekend at the beach.
Previously the parade has been held the Saturday before Memorial Day.
While deployed in Iraq in 2003, the humvee Martinez was driving hit a roadside bomb and caught fire, trapping him inside and leaving him with severe burns to 23 percent of his body, according to his website.
Since then Martinez has spent several years serving as a motivational speaker and wrote the New York Times best-selling book “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit.”
He also has acted on “All My Children” and currently stars on the CW Network’s “SAF3.” In 2011 he was season 13 winner of “Dancing With the Stars.”
The Military Appreciation Days committee still is working out details for the month’s events, which are planned to begin the first weekend in May with ceremonies honoring Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.