While the rest of us are gnawing on barbecue or watching the fire works this Fourth of July, Gary Sinise will be hard at work performing for military service members and their families.
The Academy Award-nominated actor and Presidential Citizens Medal recipient appeared at The National Press Club Thursday to announce the launch of the Gary Sinise Foundation, describing his decades-long work on behalf of military veterans and their families as a journey that has "enriched my life."
The foundation will “support unique programs designed to entertain, educate , inspire, strengthen and build communities,” according to documentation provided by the group.
Sinise, an Illinois native whose father served in the Navy, frequently mentioned the vitriol directed towards returning Vietnam veterans as a reason for his continued work. "The sad reality from Vietnam is that we've learned the hard way that...turning our back on our veterans hurts our nation," said Sinise to a sold-out crowd.
"We are a great people, we can rise to this challenge, meet it and master it," he continued, calling on Americans to take pride in the “incredible” people who serve. Asked why he chose to create the foundation now, Sinise said that after nearly 30 years of working for military families, he wanted to maximize his time and effort while still increasing his involvement.
In addition to the foundation announcement, Sinise is also front and center in a new documentary on “The Lieutenant Dan Band,” which Sinise founded along with friend and musician Kimo Williams. The group plays for military members across the country and around the world, and is named after Sinise’s character in the film “Forest Gump.”
The band features the Sinise on bass guitar and has conducted 40 concert tours, primarily for military service members and their families. It mostly plays covers of contemporary hits and older classics.
“If I could, at the end of it all when I’m 90-something years old, I’d like to be able to say I was on every single U.S. military base that we have,” Sinise said.
Proceeds from performances go towards home construction for veterans. The documentary, set to be released on July 4, will be made available online, with one-fourth of the online purchase price going to Sinise’s foundation.
Asked if he was ever irritated about being so closely associated with the fictional “Lieutenant Dan,” Sinise said he wasn’t. “How could I say, 'hey, don't call me that?’ ” said Sinise. “The character is alive for them.”
Sinise denies any political affiliation, saying he had supported both Democrats and Republicans who work on behalf of service members and their families. “I’m a citizen of the United States,” the actor said. “I can do what I want.”
He said he had never considered running for office himself. Asked what members of Congress could do to most help veterans, Sinise was firm. "Cut through all the red tape and get down to business,” he said. “...We just want to make sure we do as much as we can.”