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TV Personality Montel Williams Served in the Navy, Marine Corps

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Montel Williams is perhaps best known for his TV appearances from 1991 to 2008 on "The Montel Williams Show." 

Williams, born in Baltimore on July 3, 1956, also served in the military, enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1974 and later graduating from the Naval Academy in 1980 with a degree in engineering and a minor in international security affairs. 

A photo shows Montel Williams in a military uniform.
Montel Willians
Montel Williams in basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., in 1974.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 230823-O-D0439-001

He then served 18 months in Guam as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence. His next assignment was as a cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Fort Meade, Maryland.  

After 22 years of military service, he retired from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander.  

On the last episode of "The Montel Williams Show," Navy Capt. Kenneth J. Braithwaite II, director of Joint Public Affairs Support Element Reserve, presented Williams with the Navy's Superior Public Service Award. 

A group poses for a photo.
Group Photo
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., center right, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Montel Williams, center left, pose for a photo with event staff members during the Operation Home Cooking event as part of the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Nov. 3, 2013. The event honored service members and their families.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp
VIRIN: 131103-D-HU462-234

"It was an honor to be able to award a true patriot like Mr. Williams," Braithwaite said. "This award signifies his genuine gratitude for military service. He has a definite understanding and appreciation of what sailors and Marines sacrifice, something he knows well from his own military experience." 

During annual holiday shows in his television program's long run, Williams reunited deployed sailors with their families. In 2006, he and a production crew flew to the U.S. Central Command 5th Fleet area of responsibility to tour Iraqi oil platforms and meet with deployed sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

His program frequently highlighted the efforts of nonprofit organizations that support service members. Throughout his 17 years on television, Williams continuously shared with audience members and viewers the importance of supporting the military and recognized sailors' and Marines' sacrifices in service to their country. 

"During the entire run of my shows," Williams recalled, "I would do two or three shows dedicated to the military every single year. I went back and forth to the Persian Gulf multiple times while my show was on the air, taking messages to family members."  

Men talk during a ship tour.
Taking a Tour
Montel Williams (right, standing), tours the amphibious transport dock ship, USS New York, Nov. 4, 2009.
Photo By: Marine Corps
VIRIN: 091104-O-D0439-001

Shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Williams established the Montel Williams MS Foundation to further the scientific study of MS, provide financial assistance to select organizations and institutions conducting research, raise national awareness and educate the public.  

"My responsibility is to my fellow man," he said. "We are not here for self alone ... what I can do for mankind is much greater than what I can do for myself, and that's why I try my best. That sounds lofty and all that, but that's my purpose." 

Besides doing "The Montel Williams Show," he was an actor in several military-themed shows. He portrayed a Navy SEAL, Lt. Curtis Rivers, in three episodes of the TV series "JAG."  

He also produced and starred in a short-lived TV series called "Matt Waters," which appeared on CBS in 1996. In it, he played an ex-Navy SEAL turned inner-city high school teacher. 

Two men bond during a gathering.
Taking a Tour
Montel Williams (right) tours the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Feb. 19, 2011.
Photo By: Air Forced Master Sgt. Michael Voss
VIRIN: 110219-O-D0439-001

In 1997 he played Air Force Lt. Col. Northrop, a nuclear missile silo commander, in the fictional movie "The Peacekeeper."

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