Martinez won the mirror ball trophy and a legion of fans during the dancing competition's 13th season.
It was a three-month whirlwind of non-stop challenges, and if he could give the experience a number, it would definitely be a 10.
"You don't really realize the power of it and what it can really do for you until you're in it and then until it's done," he said. "It's been an amazing experience and it's really transformed my life to allow, just simply, when people say 'J.R. Martinez,' people know who you're talking about."
More people will discover Martinez on Monday as the 123-year-old parade heads down Colorado Boulevard.
He calls it an amazing opportunity filled with joy. He said he especially loves this year's theme, "Just Imagine," because he needed to imagine things could change after being badly injured in a landmine explosion while serving our country in Iraq.
"I really do have a purpose and I really do have a lot of weight that I'm carrying on my shoulders, but I'm blessed with strong shoulders to be able to carry this," he said.
"All I could do 8 1/2 years ago was just imagine what would become of my life and what would I be able to do with it," Martinez added. "I just worked hard and believed and I had a great attitude and I continued to persevere and look where I am today. So I want to be able to share that with everyone on January 2nd."
Once Martinez puts the Rose Parade behind him, there's another big event coming his way. He'll be honored by the city of Los Angeles on March 2.
ABC7 will have live coverage of the Rose Parade on Jan. 2. Coverage begins at 8 a.m