Variety’s fourth annual “Variety Salute to Service” special, airing on the History Channel on Veterans Day, honors contributions and sacrifices by veterans. This year’s special is hosted by Marine Corps and Navy veteran Montel Williams, former host of “The Montel Williams Show” and current host of “Military Makeover With Montel.”
The special highlights veterans making an impact on their communities after service. “We’re featuring some really, really class act veterans who, though they took their uniforms off, are still serving in some capacity right now — their communities and nation at large,” Williams tells Variety.
This year’s edition honors Elton Hart, vice president and general manager of Optimum Mid Atlantic, who served in the Navy from 1992 to 1996; Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and former Seattle Seahawk; Jeremy Locke, retired Army Sergeant First Class who served for 20 years in both the Infantry and Special Forces; Christy Gardner, a retired Army Sergeant; Gary Sinise Foundation honoree Cedric King, an Army Master Sergeant who served for 20 years; Melody McFadden, former Army police officer and gun safety advocate; Dana Cummings, former Marine Corporal; and P.T. Bratton, a former Staff Sergeant who served 10 years in the Air Force.
Williams commended all honorees for their service as well as their ability to inspire long after. For instance, the host praised the resilience of King, who, while serving in Afghanistan in 2012, stepped on an IED, resulting in permanent damage to his right arm and the amputation of both legs. Williams describes King, a Purple Heart recipient who has since run marathons and written a book, as someone who returned home and didn’t “wallow in his grief of his own personal loss” but instead “turned that into a way to help motivate others.”
Paul Buccieri, the chairman of A+E Networks Group, also applauds this year’s “Salute to Ser-
vice” lineup. “The History Channel has had an enduring commitment to honoring our nation’s veterans and military families,” he tells Variety. “We are honored to partner with Variety for the fourth consecutive year to commemorate these heroic men and women and shine a spotlight on the selfless ways they continue to contribute to our communities after their time served in the military. The special also highlights the best-in-class programs of Optimum, a leader in supporting veterans and military families around Veterans Day and throughout the year.”
Williams, who served 22 years in the military, shares gratitude for how his service shaped him and prepared him to host his long-running talk show “The Montel Williams Show,” which aired from 1991 to 2008. “It literally made me who I am. One of the things the military does teach us is perseverance, endurance, and also the ability to draw upon your knowledge to keep pressing forward. So you know, I salute my own service every day.”
Montel broke barriers in his military career; he was the first Black enlisted Marine to go through the Naval Academy prep school, then the Naval Academy, graduate and be commissioned as a naval officer. He spoke on what this accomplishment means to him.
“I look back and understand that I opened the door for so many more,” Williams says.
Like the veterans honored in “Salute to Service,” Williams also gives back to the military community. He has offered guidance and counseling to fellow veterans and organizes home makeovers for deserving veterans on “Military Makeover With Montel.” He has also worked on a treatment for PTSD symptoms, RTM (Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories), a protocol currently being used in Ukraine.
Williams shares hope that he, as well as the honorees, set an example for future service members. “I think it’s imperative that every generation of veterans should do the same for the next.”