After playing Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, actor Gary Sinise was so moved by the role depicting a war hero veteran that he decided to use his fame to give back to the troops.
He says he wants our military and first responder communities to know that “there are people out there who are aware of their sacrifices and who understand the importance of keeping our military families strong in difficult times.”
Sinise plays bass for the Lt. Dan Band, the aptly named band he formed to raise money for veterans. It has partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to contribute to the Building America’s Bravest project.
The project builds smart homes for wounded warriors like Cpl. Christian Brown, who lost both of his legs in December 2011 after stepping on an IED. The Lt. Dan Band played in Memphis on Saturday to raise money for Cpl. Brown’s home, which will feature accommodations such as automated doors, wheelchair-accessible spaces, and iPad-controlled electronics.
Cpl. Brown said it’s frustrating to not be able to easily do some small things that most people take for granted. He said, “You wish things could be easy and jump up and do things like everybody else. (The smart home) is going to help me with the transition.”
While he never thought he’d be associated with Lt. Dan almost 20 years after playing the role (wow, 20 years! Who feels old now?), he’s glad that it’s stuck:
When I played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, I never thought that 20 years later I’d still be associated with the character. I knew it was an important movie and I very much wanted to play the part. I have Vietnam veterans in my family and have been associated with Vietnam veterans groups for many years prior to that. So, I really wanted to play the [Forrest Gump] part. But could have I predicted that 20 years later people would still call me that? And I’d walk into the hospital room of a double amputee and he would recognize me for that? And that would open the doors for a conversation? No. I couldn’t have predicted that.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
Image via Jeff Schulman/Flickr