May 8, 2006

Gary Sinise, the Music Man

Hatched by Sachi

When you hear the name Gary Sinise, you may wonder "who's he?" But unless you're a hermit, you do know him. He's the actor you've seen a million times, but you're just not quite sure of his name.

Sinise has been in many popular movies; you may know him as Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump; as Ken Mattingly, the astronaut who got measles at the last minute in the absolutely wonderful movie Apollo 13 -- the guy who finally figured out the sequence by which Tom Hanks could restart some vital piece of equipment without frying the capsule's circuitry; or as a regular on the popular TV show CSI: NY, where he plays Det. Mac Taylor.

But he is better known to U.S. troops for his tireless support of them via the United Service Organizations, the USO.

I first noticed Gary Sinise at the beginning of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. When new USO leader Wayne Newton was having a hard time recruiting celebrities to go to a war zone (and in particular Iraq, with the political implication of endorsement), Sinise was one of the few who volunteered. (Another was rocker Joan Jett, a passionate opponent of the war but an ardent entertainer of U.S. troops everywhere.)

I saw Sinise on TV being interviewed at the time. He said that, since he was just an actor who couldn't sing or dance, all he could do was shake hands with the troops and show his appreciation. Even that would be enough; but it turned out he was being modest about his musical talent (uncharacteristic for Hollywood).

Over the years, he has done a lot more than just shake hands. He co-founded the Iraqi Children Fund that sends school supplies to Iraqi children. And he formed the "Lt. Dan Band" and traveled all over the world, including numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, to entertain our troops.

On May 5th, Sinise and his band kicked off second annual "America Supports You" salute concert tour commemorating "Military Appreciation Month."

Sinise, who returned with his band just yesterday from a whirlwind concert tour through Afghanistan, said he found high troop morale wherever he went and a solid belief in the mission.

"Everywhere I went - and we covered a lot of territory there, we talked to literally thousand of people, I shook thousands of hands, took thousands of pictures, signed thousands of autographs - and everywhere I went... I didn't meet anybody who was down," he told today's audience.

"Everybody was dedicated, everybody felt that the mission was important, and everybody was happy to be there doing their job," Sinise said.

It is not like Sinise has nothing else to do. He's a regular on CSI; but even during the TV season, he spends his weekend visiting bases at home.

Needless to say, his work is much appreciated by the troops.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England presented Sinise the Superior Public Service Award in honor of these contributions. "He's a superstar!" Rumsfeld told today's audience....

"This is one of the best days I've had since I've been here," said Army Sgt. Leroy Scott, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center patient who lost his right leg in Iraq in July. Scott said he remembers when Sinise visited his unit in Germany before his unit deployed. "He's a great guy," Scott said. "He's always there for us."

We solute you Gary Sinise!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 8, 2006, at the time of 5:40 PM

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