Tampa, Fla. (AP) — A severely wounded Tampa veteran is among the fans rooting for “Dancing With the Stars” finalist J.R. Martinez.

Martinez is an Iraq war veteran who was injured when his Humvee hit a land mine. The actor reached out to Sgt. Joel Tavera and the two became fast friends. Tavera has had 75 surgeries since his SUV was struck by rockets in 2008. He lost his sight, right leg and has severe burns.

Martinez called the nonprofit group Building Homes for Heroes and asked them to build a home for Tavera. Tavera is moving into the custom Florida home soon.

Tavera will be in the audience Tuesday cheering as Martinez and partner Karina Smirnoff compete for the trophy. Though Tavera can’t see the dances, he says he feels the energy.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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