J.R. Martinez Celebrates Veterans Day At Access; Dishes On Girlfriend & Life After ‘Dancing’

“Dancing with the Stars” frontrunner J.R. Martinez stopped by Access Hollywood Live on Friday where the beloved actor celebrated Veterans Day with Billy Bush and Kit Hoover, and dished on how his “All My Children” role landed him not only a steady paycheck, but a lovely lady as well.

“I first met her in 2008 when I joined ‘All My Children,’” J.R. told Billy and Kit, of girlfriend Diana Gonzalez-Jones, who was the assistant to the soap’s executive producer at the time. “We were friends, and, you know, it was a workplace, so you don’t want to cross the line. I was respectful of that, and for about two years we were great friends.

“Finally, something happened, something clicked, and I just said, ‘[Do] you ever look at me differently than just a friend?’” he continued, with a shy smile. “And she kind of paid attention to it, and here we are! It’s great.”

Though the relationship was slow to blossom, J.R. is glad he and Diana — who can be frequently seen in the “Dancing” audience proudly supporting her man – built their romance on a time-tested foundation.

“I think we did it a great way – to have a friendship first, and then build on that,” he said.

As for J.R’s plans after “Dancing,” the eternally optimistic “man to beat” plans to use his newfound fame to continue his mission of helping bring awareness to the troops.

“I want to write a book. I want to tell people the story outside of Iraq,” he told Billy and Kit. “And I want to continue acting – it’s something I really love to do. But I want to use every platform that I get – no matter how big it is or how small it may be — to raise awareness for all of the men and women that are serving overseas, those [who are] retired, the family members, the wounded troops that are trying to find a way to fit into the world outside of the military.”

Adding, “If I can raise awareness, and I can be an inspiration to them and say, ‘OK, you can find something to do outside the uniform,’ but at the same time inspire American to step up, and give them basic ideas of what they can do to say, ‘Thank you’ – that’s my job.”

In honor of Veterans Day, the Iraq War veteran — who has been named Grand Marshal of the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade – offered ideas for simple ways to make a soldier’s day, and let the armed forces know they are thought of and appreciated.

“Write little thank you cards [and] send them to the troops,” he said, emphasizing that even the smallest gesture speaks volumes to those isolated from friends and family while serving. “Find ways to raise a little money, buy a DVD… that’s an escape. Music… that kind of stuff.”

For more with J.R., tune in to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s” Veterans Day special, “Rise and Honor” — Friday at 8 PM on ABC, and watch J.R. and professional partner Karina Smirnoff tear it up on the “Dancing with the Stars” semi-finals on Monday at 8 PM on ABC.

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