Gary Sinise celebrates 25 years of advocacy for US veterans

Hollywood star Gary Sinise is well known for the many ways in which he honors the U.S. military.

The Forrest Gump star established his own organization – dubbed ‘The Gary Sinise Foundation’ – and through that has been able to donate millions of dollars to soldiers, veterans, first responders, and their families.

Gary Sinise has been fighting to help veterans since 1994, the year he starred as Lieutenant Dan in the classic movie Forrest Gump.

Lieutenant Dan is a wheelchair bound veteran who struggles with alcoholism and mental illness after coming home from Vietnam.

Sinise received an award for his performance by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which he has been working with ever since.

“Your superb performance brought awareness of the lifelong sacrifice of disabled veterans back into public consciousness in a remarkable positive way,” the award read.

Since playing Lt. Dan— a Vietnam vet who struggles in civilian life after losing his legs in combat— Sinise has felt a connection with US veterans, who responded to the character.

“I realized early on that that character was kind of an ice breaker,” Sinise told The Arizona Republic. “There were lot of veterans that were not in very good shape, and yet I would walk in and their face would light up and they’d want to talk about the movie.”

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This inspired him to start the Lt. Dan Band, named after the character, who play USO shows on military bases. Sinise’s goal in doing this is to let military veterans know that “there are people out there who are aware of, and who understand the importance of keeping our military families strong in difficult times.”

It also led to him to create the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011. Through his organization, the actor was determined not to let this generation of soldiers slip through the cracks.

“When our veterans came home from the Vietnam War, they were not treated well and had to disappear into the shadows,” Sinise said. “When we started deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted to do my part to make sure the men and women doing their part were appreciated.”

“At the Gary Sinise Foundation, we serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need,” the organization’s mission statement reads. “We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.”

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All told, Gary is really is a great guy, and a shining example of someone who works his behind off to help those in less fortunate circumstances than himself.

And the best part? People know it.

Though Sinise has never sought praise nor tribute for his generous acts, it’s become common knowledge that he puts others first. That’s probably why a host of his actor friends banded together to thank him for his work, via a surprise video that also features veterans who have benefitted from his foundation.

In January, Sinise raised money for his organization in an inspired way: he placed a jeep up for auction at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

When Sinise released his book “Grateful American” earlier this year, the actor was surprised by the touching video, which included messages from such people as Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

“Your commitment, your dedication, you are awesome,” Howard said, while Tim Allen explained, “You motivate other people.”

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What a truly great man Gary Sinise is!

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