READY TO SERVE: Montel Williams made a name for himself helping those in need on “The Montel Williams Show.” He's back on television, but this time he's lending a hand to veterans in need.
Photos: Douglas Sonders

In “Military Makeover with Montel,” which airs on Lifetime, Williams and the show’s design team give back to returning veterans through home makeovers.

“We help them turn the home they own into the home they truly wish they had,” says Williams, explaining the transformation is more than physical. “We’re also helping them make over their soul.”

A decorated military officer, Williams served for 22 years. He started his career in the Marines, becoming the first African-American Marine to attend the Naval Academy Prep School and go on to be commissioned as a naval officer. He graduated with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

The 62-year-old has faced discrimination over the years. When “The Montel Williams Show” launched in 1991, some television stations refused to carry the show because he was black.

Williams is discouraged by the hatred he sees in the United States these days, calling it an insult to all who have served. Even though he’s not wearing a uniform, Williams is forever committed to country. “That uniform is worn around my heart every day,” he says.

CHECKING IN: As a veteran himself, Williams understands the importance of reaching out. “We need to reach out to each other as much as we want our community to reach out to us,” he says.

While Williams stands at attention during the National Anthem, he supports the right of others — including Colin Kaepernick — to peacefully protest. “I’m the one who fought to give him the right to kneel,” he says. “Whether I like the fact that he kneels or not doesn’t really matter. My oath was to protect his right to do so.”

Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he isn’t letting his illness slow him down. He continues to work on projects he’s passionate about, such as providing veteran support.

He has visited returning service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three years in a row. He also hires veterans at his companies and urges other businesses to hire them as well, especially since veterans have learned many skills, including leadership, that can be used in civilian life.

Williams urges fellow veterans to stand up for themselves and their peers.

“We need to reach out to each other as much as we want our community to reach out to us,” he says, remembering his cousin who served in Vietnam and later committed suicide. “Look in your own eyes and recognize what you did to help preserve democracy at a time when so many are trying to destroy it.”