As you may have gathered from his vignette explaining his Most Memorable Year dance, J.R. was injured in April of 2003 when a Humvee he was driving hit a landmine in Iraq. Over 40 percent of J.R.’s body was burned and he suffered severe smoke inhalation, leading him to spend 34 months at the Brooke Army Medical Clinic in San Antonio, Texas and undergo 33 cosmetic surgeries.
J.R. admitted on DWTS that he became depressed when he was in the hospital but he later found the strength to move on from his injuries, become a motivational speaker and actor, and eventually setting the floor on fire on DWTS Season 13.
While fans may be aware of J.R.’s inspiring story, he doesn’t talk that much about his life before the accident. Originally born in Shreveport, Louisiana, J.R.’s two sisters lived in El Salvador with his mother’s family and sadly one of his sisters died before he had the chance to meet her. J.R. never met his father and little is known about him.
After playing football in high school in Georgia, J.R. joined the army after seeking the advice of his coach. J.R. underwent Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he gained skills as an 11-B Infantryman. After reporting to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in January of 2003, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. J.R. was deployed to Iraq in March of 2003 and the rest is history.