Actor & Activist
For over thirty years, Gary Sinise has stood as an advocate of America’s servicemen and women. It began in the early 1980s with his support of Vietnam veterans groups and the creation of Vets Night, a program offering free dinners and performances to veterans at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. His commitment continued into the 1990s working on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans organization, which he continues to actively support. His dedication to our nation’s active duty defenders, veterans and first responders has become a tireless crusade of support, service and gratitude to all those who protect our freedom and serve our country.
His portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the landmark film Forrest Gump formed an enduring connection with servicemen and women throughout the military community. After several USO handshake tours in 2003, Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. The band now performs close to 50 shows a year for military bases, charities and fundraisers supporting veterans and troops around the world.
Sinise serves as spokesperson for both the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation and Disabled American Veterans. He serves on executive councils for The Medal of Honor Foundation and the USO, and is an advisory board member for Hope for the Warriors.
In recognition of his humanitarian work on behalf of our troops and veterans, Sinise has earned many distinguished awards including The Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Medal of Honor Society, the Spirit of the USO Award, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Spirit of Hope Award by the Department of Defense, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from the National Defense Industrial Association and West Point's Thayer Award. In 2008 he was given the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation, only the third actor ever to receive this honor. He was also named an honorary Chief Petty Officer by the Navy and an Honorary Marine by the United States Marine Corp.
In 2011, Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation. Its mission is to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities. These include its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment), whose flagship initiative is a custom Smart Home building project for severely wounded veterans. Each home is customized to ease their daily challenges and help restore independence with features like retractable cook tops, cabinets and shelving, elevators and more, all accessible via an iPad.
Other programs include Relief & Resiliency Outreach, Invincible Spirit Festivals, Serving Heroes and Arts & Entertainment Outreach. Over the years, the Foundation has formed numerous corporate partnerships, including those with the Carrington Companies and GE.
Giving back to those who sacrifice for our nation and encouraging others to do the same has become Gary Sinise’s personal quest and what he hopes will endure as a legacy of service to others.
We LOVED Gary so much! He was so wonderful onsite and easy to work with, which is fabulous!