PASADENA, Calif.—J.R. Martinez, the "Dancing With the Stars" contestant, "All My Children" daytime soap opera star and Iraq War veteran seriously burned when his Humvee hit a land mine, was picked Tuesday to lead Pasadena's 123rd Tournament of Roses.
He also will toss the coin before kickoff of the 98th Rose Bowl Game in honor of all wounded military personnel.
The Tournament of Roses Association said Martinez was a perfect fit for the "Just Imagine ..." parade theme celebrating the power of imagination, inspiration and determination to encourage people to reach higher and try harder.
"To be able to participate in this iconic American tradition on New Year's Day is something I could only imagine," Martinez said in a statement. "I believe everything happens for a reason and I'm grateful the events of my life have provided me with the opportunity to share my message of hope and possibility on New Year's Day."
The parade and football game are being held on Jan. 2 rather than New Year's Day, which falls on Sunday. The association has a never-on-Sunday rule.
Tournament President Rick Jackson said Martinez is an inspiration because of his courage and dedication to helping all Americans facing challenges.
"His outlook on life is admirable and we couldn't be happier to have the chance to celebrate the New Year with him as we entertain the millions of fans around the world during the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game," Jackson said.
Martinez joined the Army in 2002 and was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 as an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Less than a month later, he was driving a Humvee in Karbala when it hit a land mine.
Martinez was trapped inside the burning military vehicle and suffered burns over 40 percent of his body.
He later became a motivational speaker and in 2008 was cast as combat veteran Brot Monroe on ABC's long-running daytime drama "All My Children, which has since been canceled.
Besides his current turn on ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars," Martinez works with the charities Operation Finally Home, Phoenix Society, USO, Iraq Star and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.