Actor Gary Sinise has had a longtime dedication to helping members of the U.S. military, from visiting wounded warriors in Walter Reed Army Medical Center – to sending school supplies to troops in Iraq so they could hand them out to children – to performing concerts with his Lt. Dan Band (named after his character in “Forrest Gump”) that benefit military families.
As Sinise explained to me during a 2008 interview, this devotion was sparked at age 25 when he saw a play called “Tracers,” which was written by Vietnam veterans about their experiences during and after the war, experiences which often involved them being hated and maligned here in the U.S. because they fought in the war. Sinise felt bad that these men who had already sacrificed so much at their government’s request were being abused by their fellow countrymen, so he got to know many of them and advocate on their behalf.
After 9/11, Sinise got involved with the U.S.O. and started visiting troops in hospitals. At first, he felt awkward because hospitals had made him uncomfortable ever since he visited his grandmother there when he was a child. However, he set his personal feelings aside to visit an injured soldier in Germany at Landstuhl Medical Center following one of his trips to Iraq.
Sinise said, “I met a lot of folks that had been blown up and shot up and burned up. That was a difficult day. But when I left, I knew that my being there had helped some people, so you forget about your own reaction to what you’re seeing, and it becomes about them. It’s not about you. From that point on, I knew that even though it’s difficult to see some of these injuries and what some of these guys are going through, my presence there helps them and their families.”
In the ensuing years, Sinise created the Gary Sinise Foundation, whose website explains, “We serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.”
Sinise, the U.S.O., American Airlines, and many members of the Hollywood acting community recently embarked on a special project to honor the United States’ Wounded Warriors by flying them and their families to Hollywood for three days of celebration and fun. Parts of that weekend will be featured on a TV special called “Hollywood Salutes Heroes,” which will air on Feb. 27 at 8:00pmE.
Visit The Gary Sinise Foundation for more pictures and information.