NEW YORK (NNS) -- The Department of the Navy Superior Public Service Award (DON SPSA) was presented to Montel Williams in New York, March 19, for his continuous support and recognition of Sailors, Marines and their families throughout his 17 years on television.
Rear Adm. (Sel.) Kenneth J. Braithwaite, director, Joint Public Affairs Support Element-Reserve, presented the award to Williams on behalf of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead during the taping of the series finale. The Superior Public Service Award is the second highest award presented to civilians by the Department of the Navy.
"Thank you, thank you," said Williams after he was surprised with the award presentation once the show began rolling. "I've tried in the industry to recognize you (military service members) and really bring to the forefront what is being sacrificed. I want to thank you, all of you for what you do."
Williams continued to wear the award throughout the show and received a video message from the CNO thanking him for his dedication and support to all Sailors and Marines. The message will air in a special segment during the final week of "The Montel Williams Show" this May before it goes off the air.
"It was an honor to be able to award a true patriot like Mr. Williams," said Braithwaite. "This award signifies his genuine gratitude for military service. He has a definite understanding and appreciation of what Sailors and Marines sacrifice, something he knows well from his own military experience."
Williams' mother and relatives were in the audience for the series finale. His staff, some of which had been with the show since the first day, attended and Williams declared that it would be a fun show celebrating their 17 years on television.
"It is very bittersweet today. Everybody has worked so hard," said Kwame White, production assistant for 'The Montel Williams Show." "He (Williams) is a great man. Every day, while at work, I meet someone amazing here who has overcome something and it has given me such an appreciation for what I have."
Williams has reunited deployed Sailors with their families during annual holiday shows. In 2006, he and a production crew flew to the Navy Central Command/5th Fleet area of responsibility to tour the Iraqi oil platforms and meet with deployed Sailors aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
He has invited guests from nonprofit organizations supporting military service members to the show highlighting their support efforts. Throughout his 17 years on television, Williams continuously shared with hundreds of audience members and viewers the importance of supporting the military and recognized Sailors' personal sacrifices in service to their country.
Navy Band Northeast, stationed in Newport, R.I., opened the show by playing the theme song from "The Montel Williams Show." They continued to play as the show went to commercial. Musician 3rd Class Marc Heskett was featured on the saxophone.
"It was pretty intense and it was fun. There was a lot of energy in that studio," said Heskett. "Our performances are not normally televised."
"It feels great to be a part of this day," said Lt. Carl Gerhard, Navy Band Northeast band director. "This is a very special day for Mr. Williams and it is nice to be here to play not only to celebrate his long run on television, but to play a tribute to his service as well."
"It was very exciting and a little intimidating with the cameras rolling," said Musician 2nd Class Joshua Sullins.
Williams enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974 and in 1975 he was selected as the first black Marine to attend the Navy Prep School before graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1980. Williams was commissioned as an intelligence officer specializing in cryptology.
Service members interested in viewing the emotional presentation of the DON Superior Public Service Award to Williams should tune in for the series finale of "The Montel Williams Show" that will air May 16.
For more news from Navy Office of Information, East, visit www.navy.mil/local/navinfoeast/.