Gary Sinise shines his light on U.S. veterans: ‘That’s the way that I can give back and serve’

Gary Sinise comes to Washington all the time and manages to fly mostly under the radar because he doesn’t make a big deal about it, unlike a lot of TV stars who shall remain nameless.


Gary Sinise greets Army staff sargeant and Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter during the Gary Sinise Foundation Luncheon at the Park Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 (Daniel Swartz Photography)

But after years of working on behalf of soldiers and veterans, he doesn’t have to make a big deal about it because he is a big deal — perhaps the most recognized and respected celebrity among the military around the world. (Think Bob Hope, but without the jokes.)

The actor/activist, 58, was honored Wednesday at a small lunch at the Park Hyatt Hotel hosted by Capitol File magazine, which featured Sinise and his foundation in the latest issue. Guests included Hunter Biden, Tucker Carlson, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, the magazine’s editor in chief Elizabeth Thorp — and veterans including Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ty Carter.

The luncheon, Sinise told the audience, fell on the 30th anniversary of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. “Part of what I try to do is just draw attention to those we should always remember and never take for granted — our defenders,” said Sinise. “If shining a spotlight on me can shine a light on them and their service and what they go through on a daily basis, then that’s the way that I can give back and serve.”

Most people discovered Sinise in “Forrest Gump” when he played disabled Vietnam war veteran “Lt. Dan,” a name he’s still called on the street to this day. The Chicago actor had been working with veterans for a decade (his brothers-in-law both served in Vietnam), but the success of the movie propelled him into advocating for the military all over the world. The 9/11 attacks, he said, reinforced his commitment to soldiers and first responders.

“I just felt there was a part to play,” he said. “It motivated me to raise my hand and say, ‘I just wanted to go where the troops are and tell them, ‘Thank you.’ That’s all I wanted to do: pat them on the back and make sure they knew they were appreciated.” After working with other organizations for years, Sinise started his own foundation in 2011, raising more than $11 million for military families, active military, disabled vets — mostly from concerts around the world headlined by his Lt. Dan Band. As the star of “CSI:New York,” he negotiated a four-day workweek so he could tour around the country on weekends; he’s also the longtime co-host the Memorial Day concerts on the Mall.

With the end of the show this spring, he’s now fundraising fulltime — planning a fundraiser for the Navy Yard victims and a salute for troops at the Kennedy Center in December: “I just want to give them some joy.”


Gary Sinise with Cpl. Christian Brown (left), St. First Class John Masson, and Ret. Captain Leslie Nicole Smith (right) (Daniel Swartz Photography)

 

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Emily Yahr · October 23, 2013