J.R. Martinez, an Iraq war veteran and former soap star, had an earnest chat with his mother a day before he won the 13th season of "Dancing With The Stars" with partner Karina Smirnoff.
Rob Kardashian, brother of reality star Kim, and partner Cheryl Burke placed second on Tuesday's results show, while talk show host Ricki Lake and Derek Hough came in third. Martinez's mother, Maria Zavala, was in the studio audience, watching her son and Smirnoff receiving their Mirrorball Trophy.
"It's crazy - I said to my mom last night, I was like, regardless of what happens - but still, to think eight and a half years ago, she was helping, teaching me how to walk and now I've been learning how to dance for the past 10 weeks," Martinez told OnTheRedCarpet.com after the show. I mean, it's amazing, the journey. It just shows that life is crazy, but you can make it, man."
The Louisiana native, whose full first name is Jose Rene, was deployed to fight with U.S. forces in Iraq in 2003 and suffered burns to more than 40 percent of his body after a Humvee he was driving hit roadside bomb. He has undergone more than 30 surgeries to repair the damage, including on his face and legs.
His mother is originally from El Salvador and raised Martinez as a single mother. Zavala told OnTheRedCarpet.com that she does not know where he received his dancing talent.
"I believe he got it from God," she said. "My son is a hero and also a good son."
Martinez, 28, was picked by OnTheRedCarpet.com readers to win season 13 of the network's hit ballroom dancing series, according to online polls.
"Now that dancing's done I'm going to go to professional lifting. Seriously, those things are so heavy, like, veins are popping out of my head," Martinez joked, holding both trophies. "But it's all worth it, man, it's all worth it. It's an amazing experience. I guess first and foremost, before anything, we should thank America, every single week for voting for us, and believing in us as a team."
This is the first "Dancing With The Stars" win for Smirnoff, a 33-year-old professional dancer from the former Soviet Union. Smirnoff has been a cast member on the show since its third season in 2006.
"Thank you very much for being patient with me," Martinez told her after the show. "For teaching me everything you taught me and for believing in me, to trust me with certain moves and certain things and I'm just so grateful that I was able to be a part of your first Mirrorball Trophy journey."
"I couldn't have asked for a better partner. We make an amazing team and I'm ever so grateful," she replied, adding: "I feel like we're accepting Oscars."
Martinez played U.S. serviceman Brot Monroe, who also served time in Iraq, on "All My Children" from 2008 until the show was taken off the air earlier this year. It was his only on-screen role. He says he plans to continue to act.
Martinez continues to make public appearances as a motivational speaker and also has a book in the works. Earlier this month, he was named as the Grand Marshal of the 2012 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, which takes place in January.
Martinez and his girlfriend of two years, Diana Jones, appeared on ABC news program "Nightline" ahead of the "Dancing With The Stars" finale" and talked about their live together. The two met when he starred on "All My Children" and she worked on the show as an executive assistant.
Jones said that when she looks at Martinez, she sees "a hot sexy guy," adding: "I mean I'm very attracted, he's very attractive and I mean I love him, that's who I see, I see a great guy and I see the man that I love."
She told OnTheRedCarpet.com that Martinez "is on Cloud 9" after winning "Dancing With The Stars."
"He's worked his butt off," she added. "He deserves it. The right person won."Reporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television, parent company of OnTheRedCarpet.com that also produces the entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).
Check out our "Dancing With The Stars" season 13 finale photo gallery and a recap of Monday night's performances, as well as video interviews with the cast backstage.