Myrtle Beach’s annual Memorial Day weekend parade might also be known for welcoming grand marshals who have mastered multitasking in their careers as well as in serving Uncle Sam.
Montel Williams, a Marine who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with an engineering with a minor in international security, earned such honors as pairs of Meritorious Service and Navy Commendation and Achievement medals, and later hosted a Daytime Emmy Award-winning TV talk show for more than 17 years.
A motivational speaker, Williams also has established the Montel Williams MS Foundation and penned several best-selling books, including “Living Well Emotionally: Breakthrough to a life of Happiness” and “Living Well: 21 days to Transform Your Life, Supercharge Your Health, and Feel Spectacular.” Last year, he partnered with Union Springs Media to launch the website www.livingwellwithmontel.com.
Ready to ride in the parade on Saturday – which steps off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard, from 27th Avenue North southward to Ninth Avenue North – Williams takes a baton carried by Buzz Aldrin, retired astronaut in 2010; U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2011; Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., S.C. adjutant general, in 2012; and Rocky Bleier, a four-time Super Bowl running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, in 2013.
While traveling in the past week, Williams fielded some questions by email, responding within a day.
Question | With your having hosted a TV show for more than 17 years, in what unseen, maybe-not-noticed-for-a-while ways did that position help you in your own life, for something therapeutic or uplifting, including through your books?
Answer | My show was different because it took on everyday issues and approached them from the perspective of not what happened, but rather why things happened and try to figure out solutions – that is how I live my life – I don’t belabor the what; I figure out the why and put my energy into finding solutions.
Q. | In standing up to multiple sclerosis, how has that emboldened you to make a difference, even if for other people, helping them in ways beyond anything you can do for yourself?
A. | My public diagnosis with MS thrust me into the position as one of the public faces of this illness – a position I take on with gratitude. My hope is through my journey to impact my own illness, I can help others find hope.
Q. | Was comfort in front of a camera from your longtime talk show a factor in landing roles on mammoth hit series as “Guiding Light,” “Touched By an Angel” and “JAG”?
A. | What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I truly enjoy acting, I’ve had my own series in “Matt Waters,” I’ve been on Broadway, and I enjoy the creative side of the stage as much as I enjoy the analytical side of the stage that came with the talk show.
Q. | The final season of “JAG,” in spring 2005, included an episode in the setting of Parris Island, where you had basic training after enlisting in the Marine Corps. What memories of those times surface when you visit the Lowcountry?
A. | It’s been quite a long time since I have been to the Lowcountry and not for any other reason than I have been busy and traveling in other places. One of my daughters lived in Charleston for a time, and I am constantly reminded of how beautiful South Carolina is, so I am very much looking forward to coming back for the parade.
Q. | With a military career begun in the Marines, and shifting to the Navy, with more than a decade of active duty and later retiring from the Navy Reserves as a lieutenant commander, after 22 years of service to the county, what has Memorial Day always meant for you, and how has it occupied or carved a bigger place in your heart?
A. | Having spent 22 years serving in the military, supporting and defending the Constitution, and so, Memorial Day will always acknowledge and represent the sacrifice made by so many and remind us of the best of what Americans can be.
Q. | The “JAG” spinoff “NCIS” hasn’t lost any luster the years as a CBS staple. Are there any military-theme shows on TV today that keep you glued as a fan?
A. | I’ll admit to being a fanatic for the History Channel, for unscripted historical shows from the Romans to the modern day.
Q. | Any time before or after our local Memorial Day weekend parade to ride the colossal Swamp Fox wooden coaster at Family Kingdom Amusement Park, with quite the view of downtown Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand coastline from atop its crest?
A. | I’m a huge roller coaster fan, but I think it’s probably not in the cards on this trip. Guess I’ll have to plan another trip down the road.