The lip service in the words "thank you for your service" deeply bothers Montel Williams, the former talk show host told Military.com. And he thinks a TV show he's hosting and co-producing can help.
"In the last couple of years, I've been more -- not disgusted by, but angered by -- the fact I'm in the airport all the time, and I'll see a soldier walk by, and someone will say, 'Thank you for your service,' and they won't even wait to see what the soldier has to say back. Are you really saying it because you are thankful for their service, or are you saying it because it seems like the vogue thing to do?" he said in an interview. "It rolls off of people's lips just like 'good morning' does. It's time that we really start putting our money where our mouths are."
Williams has just joined Lifetime network's military-focused home improvement show, recently renamed Military Makeover With Montel. Centered on providing accessible housing to military veterans and their families, the show is in its 15th season.
Fans will remember the show in its previous iteration, hosted by "Gunny" R. Lee Ermey until his death early this year. Ermey, known for his infamous portrayal of Sgt. Hartman in the cult classic "Full Metal Jacket," was himself a Vietnam veteran and died in April at age 74 after an illness.
Not unlike other home makeover shows, Military Makeover pairs the show's crew, host and designers with home construction help and donations from the local community.
Williams believes it can demonstrate that actions speak louder than words. And he hopes his in-depth interview style can take the show to the next level, helping viewers peel back the layers to see what it's really like to be a veteran or veteran family. Thanks to his popular longtime TV talk show, The Montel Williams Show, which aired for 17 years, he became a household name. But he's also a Marine Corps and Navy veteran who served for 22 years.
That service, he said, gives him a unique insight on not only what it's like to serve, but what it's like to get out.
"Of course, we're building a house ... but we're also rebuilding that person from the inside because they're starting to understand that people do care, and the community does care," he said. "I hope [viewers] get a sense that 'thank you for your service' isn't enough, that 'thank you for your service' isn't the end of it. We should be thanking them for their service for the rest of their lives."
For one upcoming episode, Williams and his crew were able to present Air Force veteran Matthew Moyers and his wife Rachel with a newly renovated home. Rachel works with the the organization Caregivers on the Homefront, which works to assist fellow military caregivers, and Matthew suffers from PTSD, Williams said.
Just having the chance to sit down and talk to the couple served as a reminder of what veteran families are dealing with behind the scenes.
"Behind every man, woman who served, there's a family that serves them when they're home. And every now and then, they need to be shored up, need to be reminded that the job they are doing -- it's really almost something you can't even pay back," he said. "It was good to sit down with both of them, to get both of their experiences so I could translate [that] to something that people can understand."
Military Makeover With Montel airs on Lifetime.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.