In the early ‘90s, a highly decorated military veteran with a warm smile and striking charisma was primed for stardom as an Emmy award-winning talk show host. The Montel Williams Show would go on to film more than 3,300 episodes with some 36,000 guests, tackling a wide variety of social issues, from finding lost loves and reuniting families to spirituality and medical conditions.

Montel Williams went on to spend 17 years as a fixture in American homes five days a week. He also launched an online wellness community, a multiple sclerosis foundation after he was diagnosed with MS and continued his advocacy work for veterans.

“I’m so psyched to be involved. And I feel so blessed to have the opportunity. I don’t look at this as a platform for me. This is a platform to showcase real impact on people’s lives.”

“I’m so psyched to be involved. And I feel so blessed to have the opportunity. I don’t look at this as a platform for me. This is a platform to showcase real impact on people’s lives.”

More than 25 years later, Montel returns to his roots in his imminent return to television as the new host of Military Makeover, a series airing on Lifetime TV that celebrates and repays those who have served our country.

“I really can’t wait for this,” he says. “I’m so psyched to be involved. And I feel so blessed to have the opportunity. I don’t look at this as a platform for me. This is a platform to showcase real impact on people’s lives.”

Born in Maryland in 1956, Williams life wasn’t always filled with Hollywood glamour. He began his professional career in his late teens in the United States Marine Corps.

In fact, Williams was the first African-American Marine selected to attend the Naval Academy Prep School to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and become commissioned as a Naval officer. At Annapolis, Montel earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs, serving nearly two more decades after becoming commissioned as an officer.

“I felt it was my duty to serve,” Montel explains. “In my military career, I spent about 20 years as a special duty intelligence officer. I held some of the highest security clearances this country has.

Throughout his military career, he earned three Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals, and a number of other military awards and citations.

After leaving active duty in the late ‘80s, Williams inched his way into the public eye by traveling the country to speak at thousands of high schools and encourage teens.

“I actually started to speak in 1988, a year before I left the military,” he says. “I started the nonprofit Reach the American Dream on my leave time and received so many speaking requests that I couldn’t go back into active duty.”

For three years, Williams visited more than 1,500 schools. By 1991, his speaking engagements transitioned into a full-time daily talk show, where Williams was able to reach millions of Americans all at once.

“I think part of my success with the talk show came from the speaking I did,” he says. “By that time, I had already been featured on multiple national television shows. By the time I went on air, you had all these kids across country telling their parents that they knew who I was.”

The Montel Williams Show launched in May 1991, airing alongside programs hosted by talk show legends like Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue.

“We set standards and trends,” he says. “We talked about topics that no one talked about before, from the lives of those in the LGBTQ community to child abductions.”

In 1999, at the height of his television career, Williams experienced a spell of MS—a sharp and 24-hour neuropathic pain in his feet and legs.

“I probably had my first bout of MS in the military, but no one diagnosed it,” he says. “From then up until my diagnosis in 1999, my symptoms kept getting worse. It’s a degenerative disease. I tried really hard to battle the illness myself, but I ended up seeing a doctor to get it figured out. That’s when I got a really rude awakening.”

At the time, Williams had no idea what MS would mean for his life. “That’s when I went into deep-dive study mode,” he says. “I vowed to find every tool out there that could help battle this insidious disease. The thing is that every single person who has MS experiences it differently. It’s like dropping water on the side of a computer. If it falls a little to the left or right, it will affect different connections. Our brains are all different, so it’s hard to find one treatment method that works for everyone.”

Williams continued his search for solutions and treatments to help himself and others counteract the disease. He even established the Montel Williams MS Foundation to further the scientific study of MS, as well as provide financial assistance to select organizations and institutions conducting research and raising national awareness. Since, the MWMSF has granted more than $1.5 million dollars to research and has supported a study done at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which discovered an MS gene.

“You have two choices in life,” he says. “Get busy living or sit around waiting to die. When doctors give this diagnosis, you hear them talking about everything you can’t do, and it makes me so angry. How dare they say they know it all. If they did, you’d have a cure. When it comes to getting busy living, you have to do everything in your power to move forward and become more positive. You can’t let yourself succumb to the disease.”

Though Williams was battling MS, he never let the disease get in the way of his show’s success. But by 2007, he decided it was time to say goodbye.

“Right before the show stopped, I started something called Living Well with Montel,” he says. “It seemed like a natural progression to help people lead healthy lives.” Through his online community, Williams has a platform to promote his message of living well physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Now after a decade after his talk show ended its run, Williams is ready to return to television–this time as the host of Military Makeover, where he will offer hope and a helping hand to members of our military and their loved ones. During the renovations, he’ll lead viewers on an emotional journey that transforms the homes and lives of military families across the country.

“Being part of Military Makeover gives me the ability to not just talk about things, but also give something back,” he says. “This is about stepping up to the plate and recognizing the sacrifice. I spent 600 days on the water deployed, so I really understand what it’s like. I want to draw the connection where we don’t just say ‘I support the troops’ as a saying, but we say it because we understand what it really means.”

Between Williams’ advocacy work, his battle with MS, and his journey back to television, he has proven to be incredibly resilient, always finding a way to rise above.

“I always say, ‘Mountain, get out of my way,’” Williams says. “It doesn’t matter what obstacle you’re facing, we all have the ability to climb to the top. I control the definition of who I am, rather than have someone else or even a doctor tell me who I am. We all have the right to make our own choices in life.”