The DWTS victor is honored at an event to build an American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

By Linda Marx
December 03, 2011 03:30 PM
Riccardo S. Savi/Getty

Just because he won ABC’s Dancing with the Stars two weeks ago doesn’t mean injured Iraq war veteran J.R. Martinez can’t put on his dancing shoes to help other disabled vets.

Martinez, 28, was guest of honor at Lois Pope’s the Lady in Red Ball at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club Friday night in Palm Beach, where he was presented with the Unsung Hero Award for “overcoming devastating injuries to make a full life for himself and in so doing bring the plight of America’s three million living disabled veterans into our country’s consciousness.”

The Mirror Ball Trophy winner was asked to donate a dance to the person who pledged $25,000 to benefit the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial that Pope, the widow of the founder of the National Enquirer, is financing on 2.4 acres in Washington, D.C.

A donor, who pledged the money for the memorial, deferred to Pope, who enjoyed her dance with Martinez.

“I am so thrilled to meet his charming man,” Pope tells PEOPLE. “I voted for him on Dancing with the Stars and asked all my friends to do the same. I am honored and inspired to be in his presence.”

Martinez, who took time to talk to everyone at the gala, returned her compliment.

“I am honored to be here, because Lois Pope’s mission to build this Memorial in Washington is so awesome for someone like me to see,” Martinez tells PEOPLE, referring to the burn he suffered in a 2003 landmine explosion in Iraq and the 33 surgeries that helped him come alive again.