University Housing Services is pleased to welcome Army veteran, motivational speaker, actor, and author J.R. Martinez for our Latino Cultural Dinner Monday, October 27, at 5 p.m. in the Brown Ballroom in Bone Student Center.

“Giving back” is how J.R. Martinez lives his life. In 2002 Martinez joined the Army and was deployed to Iraq shortly thereafter. Less than a month into his service, he suffered severe burns to 34 percent of his body after a tire on his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. During the 34 months he spent in recovery, Martinez was asked to speak to a burn patient who had just seen his body for the first time. After 45 minutes, the patient opened the curtain to his room to let in the light, and Martinez understood how his experience is what he could “give back” to help others.

He now spends his time traveling the country spreading his message of resilience and optimism. He has earned many honors including the Unsung Hero Award, 2012 National Disabled American Veteran of the Year, and 2012 Grand Tournament of Roses Grand Marshal. Martinez also tested his acting talent to inspire others and landed a role on the daytime drama All My Children. He took home the mirror ball trophy on season 13 of Dancing With the Stars. With the many talents he shares, it is no wonder that he was named one of People Magazine’s “25 Most Intriguing People of the Year” in 2011.

In honor of Martinez’s Salvadoran roots, the event will feature elements of Salvadoran cuisine and music. Dinner will include curtido de repollo, pollo encebollado, carne asada, horchata, tres leche cake, and more. Music will be by singer/songwriter Javier Garcia. Garcia combines a unique hybrid of rock, hip-hop, funk, reggae and more to create a new pop sound. He has worked with artists including Nelly Furtado and Ricky Martin.

Tickets are one meal swipe for those with meal plans and $20 for those without meal plans. Tickets will be available online September 24–October 20 at For more information, call (309) 438-5399.

This event is sponsored by University Housing Services and co-sponsored by Illinois State’s Campus Dining Services, Association of Residence Halls, Watterson Area Government, Watterson Diversity Coalition, Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Committee (MECCPAC), and the Latin American and Latino(a) studies program.