J.R. Martinez and Jessica Melore Heroes at Rose Parade

3642504_com_jess_cropped_4The Tournament of Roses Parade has played host to real-life heroes of different kinds, from the war hero to the daily life one.

Nearly since its inception in 1890, it has been a New Year’s Day tradition for millions to gather via television, live stream, and in person to view Pasadena, California’s Tournament of Roses Parade.

The 2012 Rose Parade was no different. It was also a celebration of heroes, with actor J.R. Martinez taking center stage as Grand Marshal.

Martinez Real-Life War Hero

Martinez, a real-life hero and Iraq War veteran, has appeared on “CNN Heroes” as well as “Dancing with the Stars.”

And he did not take his role in the Parade lightly. Through his publicist, he told me, “When I was first asked to be Grand Marshal of the 123rd Tournament of Roses festivities by President Jackson, I was speechless. To have participated in this iconic American tradition was amazing. Riding down Colorado Boulevard with my mom and girlfriend, Diana, and seeing thousands of smiling faces was so much more than I even imagined it would be. As a high school football player and a fan, what a thrill it was to toss the coin at the 98th Rose Bowl Game, and what a great game it was between the Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks!”

Another Real-Life Hero

Just as war hero Martinez was thrilled to be a part of 2012’s Rose Parade, Jessica Melore was equally thrilled to be a part of the 2011 Parade. She rode the Donate Life float as a representative of another kind of real-life hero, a fallen one. Melore rode in honor and in memory of Shannon Miller, the 18 year-old girl who saved her life through organ donation.

Melore was just 16 when she suffered a massive heart attack caused by a blood clot lodged in an artery leading from the left side of her heart.

For nine months, she clung to life via a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) as she awaited a heart transplant. During that time, she was hospitalized for six weeks and lost her left leg through complications.

The Need for More Heroes

If a heart had been available, Melore would not have had to wait so long. But, due to a critical shortage of organ donors, no hearts were available at the time of her need.

As her high school classmates looked forward to college, Melore was preparing for major surgery. A heart had become available when Miller was killed in an automobile accident.

A Place for Heroes to Meet

That 2011 Rose Parade proved the perfect place for Melore to meet her donor’s family for the first time. She described that event to me as “very special, very emotional, and really powerful.”

Sharing the Need

And Melore has not stopped “passing it forward” as an international spokesperson for organ donation. Since the time of her transplant, she has been all over the world with her message to “Donate Life.”

She said to me, “In sharing my story, I’ve been able to help inspire people within their own lives, because everyone can relate to it on some level. Everyone goes through adversity in some form or another, whether they’re waiting for a heart or dealing with issues in their personal lives or problems at work.”

Melore went on to tell me, “The thing that has meant the most for me throughout this whole ordeal is when people have told me they registered to be an organ and tissue donor because they heard my story. I had a chance to be here, because someone said yes.”

Changed Lives

The Rose Parade served as host to show how two heroes turned lives upside down and changed them forever. May we never forget.

Donate Life’s campaign slogan, “I Am Hope,” sounded the call this year to register 20 million organ donors in 2012 so that we could all be heroes.

Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at suite101.com, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover. 

Article originally posted at Suite101.