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Posted at 04:38 PM ET, 11/23/2011

J.R. Martinez congratulated by Leon Panetta on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ win

Panetta. (Evan Vucci/AP)
See UPDATE, 12/1: J.R. Martinez visits Pentagon

J.R. Martinez won the gaudy disco-ball trophy on “Dancing With the Stars” — and now the Iraq veteran turned motivational speaker and soap star has won the applause of Leon Panetta. We’re told the defense secretary penned a letter of congratulations to Martinez, who was severely burned by 2003 landmine explosion but samba’d his way to victory on Tuesday’s finale. In his letter, Panetta told the former Army infantryman that over the course of the series, “your strength and spirit captivated the nation, and your victory sends a strong message about the strength and resilience of our
Martinez with dance partner Karina Smirnoff (Adam Taylor/ABC via Reuters)
wounded warriors.” He added that Martinez represents “the next greatest generation. . . willing to put their lives on the line for our country.” Pentagon spokesman Douglas Wilson said Panetta hopes to talk personally to Martinez soon. Did the defense secretary watch DWTS? “I don’t know,” Wilson said, “but it’s been the talk of the troops.”

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