Actor Gary Sinise talks about Lt. Dan, his band, upcoming trip to Fort Bliss

Actor Gary Sinise talks about Lt. Dan, his band, upcoming trip to Fort Bliss
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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Lt. Dan is coming to Fort Bliss.

Actor Gary Sinise, who played the iconic role of wounded Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan in the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” is bringing his Lt. Dan Band to Fort Bliss for a free concert.

The concert will be Friday, April 26 at Biggs Park on post. Gates open at 5 p.m. with the show starting at 6 p.m. The concert is open to military, Border Patrol and their families.

“The mission of the band, there is a little phrase that we use – honor, gratitude and rock ‘n’ roll,” Sinise said in a Zoom interview with KTSM.

“We want to honor the men and women who serve our country, with gratitude of course, and give them some rock ‘n’ roll,” Sinise added.

The Lt. Dan Band, named after his character in “Forrest Gump,” has played more than 560 concerts for military audiences all over the world in the past 20 years.

“We have been all over the place,” Sinise said. “The mission of the band, the reason I started the band is to play for the military.”

Sinise was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Lt. Dan. He won a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of President Harry S. Truman in “Truman” in 1995 and won a Primetime Emmy for playing the title role in television’s biopic “George Wallace.”

He has appeared in and starred in numerous movies and television shows during his career, dating back to the 1980s.

Sinise said he was last at Fort Bliss in 2018 and is looking forward to coming back.

“It’s been busy down there,” he said. “They got a great mission and a lot of people serving our country. We are looking forward to it.”

He is also known for his humanitarian work. Besides his Lt. Dan Band, Sinise started the Gary Sinise Foundation to support veterans and their families. The band is part of the foundation’s mission, which is supported by donations.

The foundation has built 90 specially adapted homes for severely wounded veterans, served more than 1 million meals to the military and first responders and provided emergency relief grants for military members, their families and first responders, among other activities.

Sinise said he started getting involved with veterans back in the 1980s, before he played Lt. Dan.

Sinise’s father served in the Navy and two uncles served during World War II. His grandfather drove an ambulance in France in World War I, and on his wife’s side of the family, there are multiple veterans.

“It kind of starts there,” he said.

After he played Lt. Dan, things really started to snowball as far as his activism in supporting the military and veterans, he said.

“That got me started with relationships, working with our wounded through the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization,” he said. “After Sept. 11, I dove in and just wanted to be a part of supporting the men and women who were deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I started visiting, raising my hand for the USO and taking a band out and going to hospitals,” he added.

Sinise has been playing music since fourth grade, long before the first time he appeared on a stage in high school.

So it was natural for him to get a band together to support the troops.

His role as Lt. Dan also cemented a 30-year relationship with the DAV, one of the nation’s largest veterans groups.

“They invited me to their national convention after the movie (‘Forrest Gump’) came out,” Sinise said. “They saw it and here, I am playing a wounded soldier. They wanted to give me their national Commanders Award for playing Lt. Dan.

“I went and didn’t really know what the DAV was. I went, walked out on stage and there were 2,000 wounded veterans hooting and hollering about Lt. Dan,” Sinise said. “It was really impactful and made a big impression on me. I just kept working with our wounded.”

Sinise said the reason his role as Lt. Dan still resonates 30 years later is that his character has a message of hope.

“The good thing about that movie is it’s a happy ending for Lt. Dan,” Sinise said. “He is walking again (at the end) on new legs. It’s a hopeful story.

“Everyone who gets wounded, they want a hopeful story in the end. They want to know they are going to be OK and moving on,” he continued.

“That led me to create a foundation to support them and help them move on,” Sinise said.

Sinise said it is important to honor and remember the current generation of veterans, many of whom have deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.

“It’s crazy what they do. They volunteer to do it. They stick with it, go where they are told and do what they have to do,” Sinise said. “Somone like me, who shows up and says, ‘Thank you. We know it has been hard on your, hard on your family. You have lost buddies, lost friends. You have been through a lot; your family has been through a lot.’

“Someone like me showing up and playing some music and patting them on the back and providing services through a foundation, that can help them through and that is what I want to do.”

For more information on the Gary Sinise Foundation, click here.

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