While he is widely known for his role as Lt. Dan alongside Tom Hanks in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump" and his part in the "CSI" television franchise, many fans may not realize actor Gary Sinise is a dedicated advocate for military members.
In anticipation of his return Saturday, July 16, to the Rockin' for the Troops concert organized by Operation Support Our Troops-America, Sinise answers a few questions about how he connected with the DuPage organization.
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Q: How did you get involved with Operation Support Our Troops-America?
A: It's been a while now. I think my first concert was in 2005. I was there the first year and we've been coming back ever since. It's a concert that I look forward to each year. They do such great things to support our troops.
Each year they do really well, and the last three or four years they've been asking for suggestions. This year I suggested that they get involved with this home building project that I'm involved with to build specially designed smart houses for very severely injured service members.
We unfortunately have three quadruple amputees who lost both arms and both legs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we've already built one home in Staten Island for Brendan Marrocco. He was the first soldier to survive losing both arms and both legs. He'll be moving in next week.
We began the fundraising efforts in St. Louis for Cpl. Todd Nicely. We unfortunately have a third Wounded Warrior in Antioch, Ill., Cpl. John Peck, a Marine, and I asked Operation Support Our Troops- America to get involved in the effort to build him a house. So this year some of the proceeds for Rockin' for the Troops go toward the project.
Q: Why do you think advocacy for members of the military and military families is so important?
A: I have veterans in my family and I've been involved with veterans for many, many, many years. In the 1980s, I started getting involved with veteran groups.
When we started deploying our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, I just had a need and a desire to give back and support. This is a dangerous world and we have a lot of military families that are struggling in the defense of our country.
I was getting involved at that time with dozens of different troop supporting efforts to try to lend my support to those organizations. I know that celebrity can bring a certain amount of attention to certain things, so I've been trying to use that to do good things for our troops.
Q: What do you think about this year's theme, "10,000 Points of Light," to honor Sept. 11?
A: I think that's terrific. This is coming up on the 10th anniversary of a very, very tragic event in our history, and obviously each year there's a lot going on around Sept. 11. Ten years, it's hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that happened to us. I think this idea to light a candle at the end of the concert in remembrance and tribute of the people we lost that day is a good thing.
Q: What can people who want to become advocates for military families do to help?
A: There's so many different organizations. One thing that you can do that I always recommend to people around the country: Just find out what's going on in your own community. Do you have a Gold Star Family? Do you have people that have lost a loved one in your own community in service to our country? And is there anything they need, and is there a way you can help them with their grieving?
Do you have Wounded Warriors in your community that are injured and might be looking for a job? Is there anything you can do to help them?
There are national efforts and things, too. I have a foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation, to help military families and first responders. I always kind of recommend people to just look at what you can do locally, if there are military families that need help and assistance right there in your community.