Sinise bringing Rockin' for the Troops back to Wheaton

 
 
Updated 5/6/2011 5:10 PM
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  • Actor Gary Sinise visits with retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dave Szablewski of Naperville and his wife, Navy Capt. T. Smith, during Sinise's appearance Friday at Navistar in Warrenville to launch ticket sales for his Rockin' for the Troops concert July 16 at Cantigny Park.

      Actor Gary Sinise visits with retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dave Szablewski of Naperville and his wife, Navy Capt. T. Smith, during Sinise's appearance Friday at Navistar in Warrenville to launch ticket sales for his Rockin' for the Troops concert July 16 at Cantigny Park. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Actor Gary Sinise signs care packages Friday to be sent to our troops overseas.

      Actor Gary Sinise signs care packages Friday to be sent to our troops overseas. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Actor Gary Sinise visits with retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dave Szablewski of Naperville and his wife, Navy Capt. T. Smith, during Sinise's appearance Friday at Navistar in Warrenville to launch ticket sales for his Rockin' for the Troops concert July 16 at Cantigny Park.

      Actor Gary Sinise visits with retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dave Szablewski of Naperville and his wife, Navy Capt. T. Smith, during Sinise's appearance Friday at Navistar in Warrenville to launch ticket sales for his Rockin' for the Troops concert July 16 at Cantigny Park. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

When actor Gary Sinise performs with his Lt. Dan Band each summer in the Rockin' for the Troops concert at Cantigny Park, he likes to have fun and show the crowd a good time.

But Friday afternoon, Sinise spoke seriously, thanking volunteers for being good neighbors and assisting military personnel through Operation Support Our Troops.

"Through all this tragedy, difficulty, danger and tension that we feel on a daily basis for our troops and families, a lot of good things have happened and there are a lot of good neighbors out there," Sinise told a crowd of about 600 gathered at Navistar's headquarters in Warrenville.

The actor was on hand as Operation Support Our Troops Illinois launched ticket sales for the sixth annual Rockin' for the Troops concert July 16 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. The group also announced a name change to Operation Support Our Troops America.

Even in a short and serious speech, Sinise got some laughter with well-placed pauses as he accepted a national award from the Sons of the American Revolution, honoring his efforts on behalf of military members and their families.

Sinise said he never served in the military, but he values the important roles played by our nation's servicemen and women.

"I understand where our freedom comes from, and you can't take that for granted," Sinise said. "Our defenders are going to be required to stand between us and our potential loss of freedom."

Defending freedom is something retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dave Szablewski and his wife, Navy Capt. T. Smith, both of Naperville, understand from personal experience.

Szablewski and Smith gladly accepted the first two tickets to the Rockin' for the Troops concert, although Smith said she is scheduled to be on active duty the day of the show.

"We're just so happy that he (Sinise) supports the troops," Smith said.

"He said he's never served, but he's done so much more than many of his counterparts," in movies and television, Szablewski added.

This year's Rockin' for the Troops concert will donate some of its proceeds to a military cause Sinise suggested: building an accessible home for Marine Cpl. John Peck of Antioch, who was wounded in combat and now is a quadruple amputee.

Friday's kickoff event provided the opportunity to inform people of the concert's purpose and thank its sponsors, including Navistar, said Operation Support Our Troops America's President Deborah Rickert, a mother of two military sons. It also allowed the organization to announce officially its national status and intent to advocate for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"A lot of what we do already has national impact," Rickert said. "We intend to be part of the national dialogue."