'CNN Heroes': J.R. Martinez Says Hello to the Heroes

Today's cuppa: English breakfast tea

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On Sunday, Dec. 11, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" honors the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people who are making a difference in their communities. Anderson Cooper is host, and making appearances throughout the night are such celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, George Lopez, Chris Colfer, Ice Cube, will.i.am, Christy Turlington Burns, Kurt Warner, Laura Dern, Mary-Louise Parker, Sofia Vergara, Kid Rock and Miley Cyrus.

Also on hand is "Dancing With the Stars" champion and Tournament of Roses Parade grand marshal J.R. Martinez, a Iraq War veteran who battled back from severe burns suffered in a landmine explosion to become a motivational speaker, a cast member on "All My Children" and the latest to hoist aloft the coveted mirror-ball trophy.

In addition, Martinez will be co-host with A.J. Hammer of CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" of the "CNN Heroes" pre-show and red-carpet arrivals at 7 p.m. ET.

"I had the tremendous honor of attending it last year," says Martinez, "but this year I get to be the co-host and participate with A.J. Hammer at the 'CNN Heroes Awards,' and that's tremendous. That's an amazing evening. It's such an inspirational evening of people saying, 'I'm passionate about this; I'm passionate about that. I want to help; I want to do; I want to be part of the solution, rather than be part of the problem.'

"They stand up, and they find ways to help people. It's amazing. It's an honor to be part of 'CNN Heroes.' They asked me to take part in this event, greeting everyone as they come into the event, and tweet, getting them to make mentions of positive things."

Unfortunately, when someone does something crazy or destructive, their names and pictures get flashed around the world, but many people who do positive or constructive things labor in obscurity. Martinez wishes it was the other way around.

"If someone's feeding kids or stopping trafficking," he says, "or finding ways to take care of women or whatever it may be, we barely know them. They're only highlighted once a year. That's what we need. We need to have more 'CNN Heroes events throughout the year."

Asked who inspires him, Martinez says, "There's a young man, his name is Joel Tavera. He's 23 years old. He was wounded in Iraq. He's burned over 60 percent of his body. He lost a leg;  he lost some of his fingers. He's blind, and he has a brain injury.

"I've become close to him over the last two, two-and-a-half years. He's just an amazing young man. He's got such a positive attitude, always upbeat, just happy about life, finding ways to get on. He's been a tremendous inspiration. He reminds me of what I overcame, where I've come from.

"To see him have that smile all the time ... we text and we call and we joke and everything else. He's really a source of inspiration, not only for me but for millions of people that cross his path. just shows, you can actually smile, no matter what hardship you're going through.

"He and his father came out for the last two days of 'Dancing With the Stars.' It was great to see him there. I know he loved being in the audience as well. Unfortunately, he couldn't see me dance, but he could hear everyone cheer me on.

"Kids like him should be on the news, not the kids who are doing nonsense, not the people who are doing crazy things in the world. Let's highlight good people, good things If we want this country's attitude to shift, then we have to control it. we have to say, 'We're going to put good things out there for you people to start to feed off of.'

"If we don't do that, then it's going to be what it's going to be."