ASHVILLE – An Afghanistan War veteran and his family are seeing their home in Ashville get a complete makeover as part of the nationally televised reality TV program Military Makeover with Montel.
The show, which airs on Lifetime TV, will feature the story of Cody Willett, who currently works as a computer specialist with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and his wife Jessica.
A weapons supply technician for special operations teams in the United States Air Force, Willett was four months into his second deployment when his base was attacked. He was severely injured in a rocket propelled grenade attack, leaving him with a fractured lower spine, dislocated shoulder, and a damaged ankle. Evacuated for medical treatment in Germany, Cody was eventually able to return home to New York, where he met his wife.
Shortly after the birth of their second child, Cody learned of Military Makeover and applied to the show, believing that a home makeover would be a wonderful gift for his wife and children as a thank you for being “his rock” as he navigates the physical and mental struggles of PTSD from his time in the military. His submission was reviewed and he learned earlier this year he had been selected for the program.
Late last month, production crews for Military Makeover arrived at the Willett home and for the past week-and-a-half major renovation work has been taking place.
The program, now in its third season, is co-hosted by Montel Williams and Art Edmonds. Williams, who served in the military for over 20 years before launching a successful career as a motivational speaker and TV Talk Show host, joined the show during the past year and tells WRFA during a recent interview its been a special experience.
“They reached out to me about a year ago and I immediately said ‘Yes. Let’s go.’ You know, I’ve got 22 years in the military myself and it’s been an opportunity to give back,” Williams explains. “I came aboard to do portions of the show where I actually interview the families and introduce the families to the nation and make sure viewers understand what they are going through. My interviewing style is a little bit different than most so I lean on my 17 years on the Montel Williams show to try and bring out the best in all the families that we interview.”
While Williams role is to highlight the veterans and their families featured on the show, Edmonds job is to keep viewers updated on the progress of the makeover project. He told us that its amazing to see how that can done in a very limited period of time, thanks to the help of professional contractors and a team of volunteers.
“Imagine having a project done in your house. You’d have one trade at a time come in. The electrician comes in, then the plumber comes in, maybe the tile guy, and the general contractor is doing carpentry. They’re all coming in at different times. They’re not on top of each other,” Edmonds explains. “But we have every trade, all at once, doing all the work all at the same time, so they’re all on top of each other. Then, think of a TV production crew coming in and our entire circus-side show that comes in to film and document this to make a TV show out of it. It’s all happening at once, over course of eight or ten days. It’s an incredible thing to witness right down to the wire, when we get the family back for the big reveal. I always like to say that many times the paint is still wet once the family arrives.”
In addition to featuring work on the Willett home, Military Makeover will also highlight Heritage Ministries’ Homestead Stables program and the Constance Project. The Homestead Stables provides equine assisted therapy to many people, including veterans, who face unique challenges as they return home. The Constance Project partnered with Homestead Stables to help prevent suicide and work with veterans that experience PTSD, bereavement, anxiety, depression, and anger issues. Workshops allow humans to interact and connect with horses and each other in a non-threatening, non-judgmental atmosphere.
“Homestead Stables by Heritage, is extremely proud to be selected as not only the filming site, but as a community partner, who for over 130 years has served seniors and veterans, and with our programming at the stables, we are privileged to serve all ages,” said Lisa Haglund, Heritage Vice-President of Marketing and Development.
Meanwhile, the official unveiling of the home will take place Thursday, May 9 at 2 p.m. and the show will be broadcast later this year on Lifetime.
You can also hear more from both Montel Williams and Art Edmonds, along with representatives from the Dwyer program and Heritage Ministries, during our Community Matters Program at 5 p.m. Thursday on WRFA.