TheBlaze: Television personality Montel Williams was overcome with emotion and became visibly choked up while delivering a speech addressing the ongoing Veterans Affairs scandal at a Memorial Day picnic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Discussing the backlog of treatment for wounded warriors, Williams — a 22-year veteran of the military — briefly mentioned that he makes frequent visits to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I have done over 30 visits to Walter Reed, sitting bedside, for almost a three-year period of time, almost every single month, trying to see every single soldier, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,” he said during the Saturday event.
Soldiers started applauding to Williams’ dismay.
“Please, no!” he said, fighting back tears. “That’s expected of me!”
Williams told TheBlaze that he had been the Grand Marshall at the Myrtle Beach Veteran’s Day parade. He received a “quilt of valor” and afterward was attending a picnic with some of the local veterans.
In what appeared to be an impromptu address, the former Marine and Navy Lt. Commander spoke from his heart about the VA problem.
Williams shared his observations about what he viewed as a declining interest from “celebrities” who he claims are no longer showing up at VA hospitals and supporting the wounded soldiers as they had in the past.
“We’re at war,” Williams said, “Guys are still dying. How dare this nation treat us this way.”
In his speech, the television personality went on to propose that the administration push for a “surge” in medical care like the military surge that the president pushed for in Afghanistan five years ago.
The video, posted on YouTube by the local paper, has obvious jump cuts and an unedited version is not yet available. However, it does show an impassioned plea from Montel Williams to the president and Congress.
“Whether you agree with me politically or not, I know you agree with me on this, ” he said. “We can argue about whether we like football or basketball as soldiers or sailors, airmen, marine or coast guardsmen … when it comes time, we never leave a soldier on the battlefield.”
Williams also penned an Op-Ed piece about the crisis. Over the course of more than 1,000 words, Williams further defines his thoughts on how the administration should proceed with his proposed “surge” in medical care for the troops:
“Consider this thought – what if the President were to order the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, whomever it be, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Defense and HHS, to within thirty days report back with plans to execute a 90 day ‘surge’ using the existing healthcare resources of the various Departments and such civilian support as may be necessary to entirely clear the backlog and establish a baseline such that we can accurately judge the resources needed to provide timely care to every veteran and honor the commitment that seems sadly to have been broken.”
According to Williams, the cost of the added care could be more than paid for by eliminating wasteful spending on “airplanes that the military doesn’t want and funneling taxpayer dollars into any number of other ridiculously inflated and unnecessary programs.”
Montel Williams served 22 years in the Military, first in the enlisted ranks as a Marine before entering the Naval Academy and being commissioned a Naval Officer – he retired a Lieutenant Commander before launching his career in television.