Andy and ashley williams

Andy and Ashley Williams are the newest additions to the HGTV family, with their show, Flip or Flop Fort Worth, premiering November 2. They’re the latest in a string of Flip or Flop spinoffs from the network, set in locations like Las Vegas, Atlanta, and now, Texas. In an interview with GoodHousekeeping.com, the couple says they have one specific mission with their new show: to promote the work of veterans like them.

Andy and Ashley are both veterans; Andy served in the Marines, while Ashley was in the Army. The two met while in Baghdad, Iraq, while Ashley was on active duty, working in an emergency room, and Andy was in a contract position at the time. As Ashley recalls, they met at the gym, while she was training to take a physical fitness test. “I was sitting on the leg machine and Andy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, do you need a personal trainer?’ I was like, ‘Uh, no!'” Ashley says.

Before the two started dating, Andy had begun investing in rental properties back in the States. And once they got serious, Ashley started to get involved in the planning process. By the time they both came back from Iraq in 2012, they made a promise to one another: they would put down roots and not return to active duty. ” made it a point, she drew the line, that once we came home, I couldn’t go back ,” Andy says. “When we started a family, when we started having kids, she wanted me to be there. That was the big thing. She wanted me to be there to raise a family and have a family home together.”

When she came back to the U.S, Ashley first tried to find a job, since she has a degree in healthcare administration. But she had trouble showing how her work in the military would translate in the civilian world. When she finally found employment, in a hospital, her military communication style didn’t mesh well with her colleagues. “I had an issue transitioning,” she said. “I was told on my first counseling statement that I was too intense, which was strange to me.”

Andy and Ashley both found the real estate world was a better way to transition. “It really didn’t depend on if I fit in with their culture. None of that depended on it. It only depended on my work ethic,” Ashley says. “And, a lot of the time, that’s all the military personnel have, is the work ethic.”

They dove into the real estate business, at first investing in affordable housing and secondary markets, and slowly getting more successful as time went on. (Not that it’s all been fun: In one house, they tore down a wall to reveal a beehive and had to run out to avoid the swarm.) Now, they make it a point to hire fellow veterans throughout the process, and feature one veteran, a landscaper, in the show’s first season.

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“I served in the Marines, and in the Marine Corps we have an ethos,” Andy says. “When you go into the Marines you’re always a Marine, and when you get out, you just continue to serve, and you try to go back into society and add value.” So from financing to sales to construction, Ashley and Andy look for veterans to collaborate with in every micro-industry inside real estate. That way, they can lend a hand to other veterans who might be having a hard time reintegrating into civilian life. “This landscaper who was in Season 1, I promise you he’ll probably be flipping a house in maybe a year and a half because he’s already showing interest,” Andy predicts. “And that’s kind of why we do it. We want them to learn from our path and then realize that’s a viable process.”

With Flip or Flop Fort Worth, Andy and Ashley are hoping to give more visibility to veterans — and are preparing themselves, and their two children, for the fame that comes with an HGTV show. “Ashley and I lived in some of the worst situations ever. We lived in Baghdad for six years. We lived in a construction trailer, a close environment,” Andy says. “So we’re not letting anything get to our heads. We’re simple people on a simple mission, trying to solve a simple problem. We’re just simple Americans trying to raise their family.”

Flip or Flop Fort Worth airs Thursday, November 2, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

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It’s been two years since Andy and Ashley Williams have taken a vacation – mostly because the Fort Worth couple has been busy running their real estate business, Recon Realty, and more recently, filming episodes for HGTV’s “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” which took up most of their 2017.

Things have calmed down a bit since filming wrapped last October. Season one aired November to January. As of press time, the Williams haven’t been contacted for a second season (yet, anyway), so they’ve shifted their focus back to building their business; training their new Daisy puppy, Coconut; and planning a long-overdue family vacation with their two kids, 5-year-old Ashton and 4-year-old Amina.

The goal for this year: Disney World.

“No,” Andy says emphatically during an interview.

But Ashley’s determined to go: “We want to do Disney – I want to do Disney.”

That’s Ashley (she herself admits she’s always had a more direct personality). She wants the full shebang: Mickey ears, princess dresses, all of it. It’s just one of the ways the Williamses are catching their breath after a whirlwind experience filming “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” in which they flipped 10 houses in the course of 12 weeks. ” goes a lot faster … the entire year, last year, was such a blur,” Ashley says.

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The couple is still set on rehabbing neighborhoods through Recon Realty, running the company out of coLAB, the coworking space on Carroll Street in the Linwood area. But the company’s focus reaches a grander scale than flipping homes. The company was birthed from Ashley’s experience transitioning from military to civilian life – Ashley, an Army veteran, and Andy, a former Marine, met in Baghdad in 2005 and married in 2009. When they returned to the U.S., Andy worked in real estate, while Ashley, who has a degree in health care administration, got a job at an elderly care and assisted living facility. But she had difficulty adjusting to the environment and company culture, as co-workers would describe her as “intense” – she always had a direct personality after all.

“I’m not a disabled veteran or anything of that nature, but I am the typical veteran that didn’t transition well,” Ashley said. “That was the beginning of Recon.”

So, with Andy’s help (in fact, he wrote the resignation letter himself and went with Ashley to hand deliver it to the company), Ashley left her job and joined her husband in real estate. Recon launched in 2015 with two missions: to rehab houses, for one, but also to help veterans transition to civilian life by teaching them the ins and outs of real estate and land ownership. And, working with a team of mostly veterans, the company also recreates the camaraderie that only veterans know.

“We expose them to the entire industry, but then we deploy them to programs where they can either build their small business or go to an entrepreneurial path … Our challenge to each one of them is, when they’re ready, within maybe five years, go buy a piece of America,” Andy says.

At first, Recon was just Andy and Ashley. After “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” more veterans reached out, and five were added to the team. The goal is to have 50 team members that will not only work for Recon but commit to buying 50 properties within five years and, eventually, become independent developers themselves.

“We don’t want them to work for Recon; go start your own business,” Andy says.

But Andy makes it clear: Recon isn’t a charity. “At the end of the day, veterans are unique people – different, because we have different experiences,” he says. “But Ashley and I are not going to accept the current narrative that we’re charity cases, we need help. We want to change that with a positive impact on just a few.”

Recon currently focuses on rehabbing homes in neighborhoods like Stop Six and Como. “There are overlooked neighborhoods that we want to spotlight,” Andy says. “There are some cool communities in Fort Worth; they just need love.”

They’d like to do “Flip or Flop Fort Worth” again if asked, but right now, they have enough on their plates as is – a family to raise, a business to run and a new mission right at home.

“We’re going to get back to normality … we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Andy says.

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