United States Navy veteran and television personality Montel Williams will serve as Grand Marshal of this year’s Memorial Day Weekend Parade on Ocean Boulevard. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 24, and is a highlight of the community’s Military Appreciation Days each May. The month-long celebration is a “thank you” to our dedicated service men and women, past and present – along with their families – for all that they do on our behalf.
As Grand Marshal, Montel Williams will lead the Ocean Boulevard parade, then greet fans afterward at the Military Appreciation Days Family Picnic, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues North. Everyone’s invited to enjoy the festivities, which include military exhibits and live music from the Andrew Thielen Big Band. The picnic lunch, prepared by the Omar Chefs Shriners, is free for active-duty military, veterans and their families, including National Guard and Reserve.
The Military Appreciation Days Committee is excited to have Montel Williams as Grand Marshal. “Committee members sought a celebrity with a military background, and Montel Williams is a dynamic choice,” said Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach’s public information officer. “Not only did he serve, but he still supports our veterans and their families, has traveled to Afghanistan to meet with front-line troops, and looks for ways to give back to the military.”
Williams is perhaps best known as host of The Montel Williams Show, which ran for 17 years, but that fame followed 15 years of active duty service in the U.S. military. Williams enlisted in the Marines after high school in 1976, graduated from boot camp at Parris Island and was sent to Desert Warfare Training in California. Impressed with the young platoon guide, his supervisors recommended him to the Naval Academy Prep School.
After prep school, Williams attended the US Naval Academy, graduating in 1980 with an engineering degree and a minor in International Security Affairs. Beginning his Navy career as a midshipman, he served in intelligence and cryptology. Williams was stationed in Guam, California and Maryland, including three years aboard submarines, and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He received two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals and other citations.
While in the military, Williams discovered a gift for public speaking, counseling his crew and service members’ families. He was asked to speak to young people about the importance of leadership and overcoming obstacles, which led to a national tour. In 1989, he left active duty service to pursue motivational speaking full-time, and that ultimately led to his TV talk show. He retired as a lieutenant commander in the US Navy Reserve after 22 years of service.
Entries are being accepted now for the Memorial Day Weekend Parade. Interested groups and businesses will find materials on-line at www.militaryappreciationdays.com.
Another highlight of Military Appreciation Days is a visit from a traveling version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. The Wall that Heals will be on display around the clock, May 14-18, at Grand Park near The Market Common. “Reading the names, searching for and remembering a lost friend or family member, is extremely moving,” Kruea added. “It’s such a simple, yet powerful memorial.”
Myrtle Beach area attractions, accommodations and restaurants also are offering military and veteran discounts during the month of May. In addition to the big parade and picnic, other activities during Military Appreciation Days include a 5K walk/run and the traditional Memorial Day ceremony on the Convention Center Plaza.
Visit www.militaryappreciationdays.com for more information. Military Appreciation Days is sponsored by the City of Myrtle Beach and PGBA, LLC.