‘Incredible Experience’

Ashville Family To Appear On Military Home Makeover Show

Above is Cody Willett’s home in Ashville. Below, Cody Willett is pictured with his wife, Jessica, and their child. Cody Willett recently learned he and is family will appear on ‘Military Makeover With Montel,’ a home makeover show on Lifetime. Crews will be in Ashville to film the show in early May. Submitted photos

ASHVILLE — Cody Willett knew he wanted to repay his wife one way or another.

As someone dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder since his deployments to Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force, the Ashville resident admits he still suffers from physical and mental pain on a regular basis. He said his wife, Jessica, has become the rock in their relationship while the scars he received overseas continue to heal.

“My wife has been my rock through all of my issues, and she is the real hero,” Willett said. “It is hard to have to deal with work, children, life’s everyday problems and then to have a husband that is mentally suffering, this is something she signed up for not knowing what it all entailed.

“I have never really asked for any help before, but I would try just about anything to repay my wife for all she does for me.”

Willett is a member of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office where he works as a computer specialist. Part of the job includes analyzing electronics such as cellphones and computers as well as flying drones as part of investigations.

Though he didn’t get to work on computers while in the military, Willett said he has always had a passion for electronics.

Four months into his second deployment as a weapons supply technician for special operations teams, his base was attacked. Willett was severely injured in a rocket propelled grenade attack, leaving him with a fractured lower spine, dislocated shoulder and a damaged ankle.

He was medically evacuated to Germany and eventually returned home. He met Jessica, a friend of his sister, while recovering and later married.

In 2013, the pair bought a home in Ashville.

While still working with the Sheriff’s Office, Willett has been taking online information technology classes in hopes of one day working in the field of digital forensics for the state or FBI.

It was during these classes that Willett learned of “Military Makeover With Montel,” a home improvement show on Lifetime that, according to the series, “aims to respect those who have served our country, rebuild the homes — and even the lives — of these brave service men and women, and repay veterans for the service and sacrifice they’ve made for us.”

Willett applied to be on the show, figuring a home makeover would be a nice gift to his wife and his two children, one whom was just recently born.

“For all the stuff she does for me and the family,” he said. “The dealings and struggles of mental and physical things — It’s quite the task.”

Willett said he was in disbelief to learn he had been chosen to appear on the show. Crews are scheduled to begin the remodel project May 1; the show will then air on Lifetime sometime in the future.

“It’s just an incredible experience,” Willett said. “It’s surreal and one of those things you never expect to happen.”

Montel, who took over as the show’s host with the passing of R. Lee Ermey, began his professional career in the U.S. Marine Corp. He served 22 years in the military before hosting “The Montel Williams Show” for 17 years.

Montel will be in Ashville for the filming of Willett’s episode.

Willett said he’s not sure what’s in store for the family’s Stoneledge Road home. The entire show is expected to take a couple of days to film, though the end result is meant to be a surprise.

Being a veteran, Willett is hoping the exposure will help others dealing with PTSD.

“We’re soldiers,” he said. “We don’t put our emotions on our sleeve, we bottle it up. PTSD is a visible disease, but it’s hard for people who don’t get out and express it with other people.”

To help with his own struggles, and a need to remain as active as possible, Willett began working with Cindy Reidy of the Chautauqua County Veterans Service Agency PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Program. The service is a non-clinical approach to help veterans return to civilian life.

Reidy said the Dwyer Program is designed to help veterans get out and socialize with other veterans, reducing the risk of suicide.

“We offer our standard monthly coffee hours, game nights and bowling every month,” she said. “But in addition, we host a variety of other activities, events and educational opportunities for veterans and their families.

Reidy became the program manager in 2017 and immediately turned to Willett for IT help. “He was the first one I told that I had gotten the job and asked him if he would help me get it up and running,” she said. “Without hesitation, he said ‘Of course’ and has designed flyers and programs for me ever since.”

Willett said the Dwyer Program helps veterans get outdoors and into the community as a group.

“A lot of them don’t come out of the house,” he said. “It’s tough to deal with, but when you’re with a group of people it makes you feel more at ease.”

Supplies and services have been offered from local businesses to help the home makeover. In addition, Reidy said other veterans groups in the county have offered to help.