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Motivational speaker, actor and performer J.R. Martinez, a U.S. Army veteran who was injured in 2003 by a roadside bomb while serving as an infantryman in Iraq, will emcee the Stadium of Fire Fourth of July show on Friday in Provo. Courtesy J.R. Martinez
J.R. Martinez excited about Fourth of July show with Carrie Underwood

Independence Day » Army veteran and “Dancing With the Stars” winner to emcee patriotic “Stadium of Fire.”

By David Burger

Special to The Tribune

First Published Jul 03 2014 02:24 pm • Last Updated Jul 03 2014 03:39 pm

When Stadium of Fire co-producer Wayne Baruch thinks about what the Independence Day extravaganza should include, he says "a lot of the show is dedicated to heroism."

So it makes sense that along with returning favorite Carrie Underwood headlining the state’s largest Fourth of July event, this year’s emcee is J.R. Martinez.

At a glance

Stadium of Fire

Carrie Underwood is the headliner.

When » Friday, July 4, at 8 p.m.

Where » LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

Tickets » $29 to $175 at http://www.freedomfestival.org/event/stadium-of-fire/

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Martinez was injured in 2003 by a roadside bomb while serving as a U.S. Army infantryman in Iraq. After returning to the United States and enduring months of painful recovery, he became a motivational speaker, best-selling author and actor who starred on "All My Children" for three years. He became best known to America as the fleet-footed winner of season 13 of ABC’s hit show "Dancing With the Stars." He can currently be seen starring as Alfonso Rivera, a Los Angeles paramedic-firefighter and a member of the U.S. Air Force Pararescue team, in the nationally syndicated drama series "SAF3."

Martinez answered email questions posed by The Salt Lake Tribune about Friday’s big show, Carrie Underwood and what he tries to do when he hosts events such as these.

What did you know about the Stadium of Fire beforehand?

Accepting [the offer] to be the host of the Stadium of Fire show is similar to when I accepted [the offer] to be the grand marshal of the [Rose Parade]. I didn’t understand the magnitude till I [learned more about it, and] I was even more honored to take part in such an event. When it was brought to my attention that 45,000 people would be attending [the Stadium of Fire], I admit I got a little nervous, but excitement shortly took its place. I can’t wait to feel that energy.

What messages do you impart when you speak to audiences?

My messages consist of helping people understand they can adapt and overcome through life; trust … themselves; the importance of setting a goal and dream; and how all of us can have an impact on someone else’s life.

What are the keys to being an effective motivational speaker?

Don’t try too hard. Because of the nerves, some will try and come out with a knockout punch at the beginning. Relax. Trust your message and build to that grand finale. Also using humor is very important because it helps people loosen up a bit. When you hear about a motivational speaker, sometime people assume it’ll be boring and stiff. So I love using the whole stage so everyone can see and hear me from wherever you’re sitting. As much as you want everyone in the room to listen and be affected, you must also accept the reality [that] there’s a possibility that won’t happen. Try to engage at least one person and the rest will follow, and if they don’t, well, you’ve affected one person, and that’s a win.

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When you served in the military, did you ever watch the Armed Forces Network (which broadcasts this show around the world for the benefit of the troops)?

I did not. I wasn’t in the military long before I was injured, which limited my chances of benefiting from its services. But I know a lot of friends who speak highly of it. [It] gives them the opportunity to connect with the country they fight for.

Do you dance now every time you get the chance?

Mainly with my daughter. She has a mean turn!

Do you have any special Fourth of July memories from when you were growing up?

Yup, simple life. Packing up the car and going to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Does seeing Carrie Underwood perform during the show you are emceeing excite you?

C’mon. If I said no, would you even believe me? Absolutely! She’s an amazing talent.

What will you be doing, careerwise, in the days and months after emceeing the Stadium of Fire?

Continuing my acting and hosting career. Because I never know what exciting opportunities I get myself into like the Stadium of Fire, the best way for people to follow me is on Twitter @iamjrmartinez or through my website, jrmartinez.com.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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