JR Martinez JR Martinez

Want the truth? When Dancing With the Stars champ J.R. Martinez was asked to be the grand marshal of the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade — airing January 2 in 3D and commercial-free on HGTV (11am/10c) — he didn't say yes because it's such a big honor. The Iraq War vet told TV Guide Magazine the real reason he signed on.

TV Guide Magazine: What a prestige gig! Past marshals of the parade include John Wayne, Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney and even four U.S. Presidents — Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. You're in great company!
Only I didn't know that when they offered me the opportunity. [Laughs] I said yes because I wanted tickets to the game! I'm a huge football fan so I was, like, 'Hell, yeah!' I get to go to the Rose Bowl, man!" That's what I was excited about.

TV Guide Magazine: And now?
[Laughs] Now I get it. But I didn't really wake up until the day of the big press announcement. They drove me out to Pasadena incognito like I'm the president and covered me as I went into the building. Then they took me through the kitchen which I thought was a mean joke — I'm the Hispanic guy so I have to go through the kitchen! — and only then did I see the list of the grand marshals of the past. Suddenly I'm like, "This is a big freakin' deal!" It's very cool and a tremendous honor.

TV Guide Magazine: So now that you know the score, any nerves about the big day?
Nah. I'm fine. I'm mellow. I had dinner with the president of the Rose Parade association and members of the committee and they were saying, "We don't think you really understand how crazy and stressful it's going to be!"

TV Guide Magazine: Hellooo, try fighting in Iraq.
[Laughs] Hellooo, try dancing in front of 20 million people! All I gotta do on January 2 is show up and wave. Waving and smiling and talking are what I do best! But, seriously, I also hope to remind people we're still at war in Afghanistan. People are tuning it out. They're tired of hearing about it. They've moved on. But there are still thousands of service men and women who need our help and support. It's also important for me to remind America that even though the war in Iraq is going to be stamped Mission: Complete it will not be complete for the men and women who fought there and are now coming back. You're going to be seeing a lot of PTSD. You're going to be seeing more of the psychological issues, the internal scars. In that sense, the Iraq war is not over, and will never be.

TV Guide Magazine: What's up with your acting career? Will you still pursue it now that All My Children is history?
I got the bug! I've really developed a love for acting so we'll see what else is out there for me. I never had an agent for AMC. Now I've signed with the William Morris Agency so we'll see if those guys can find me some roles. But the biggest thing I want to pursue is hosting. I hosted the preshow for CNN Heroes for Showbiz Tonight and really enjoyed it. I'd love to do more. But I'm fine with whatever happens. I could never have imagined all this. It's still so surreal, so hard for me to grasp. It's crazy! The biggest thing I have to remind myself is to never change. If I can just stay me through all of this incredible stuff that's happening, I will be okay.

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