Actor Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band will headline First Responder Day in Erie on Sept. 11

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Actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will perform in Erie on Sept. 11.

But they won't be the stars of the show.

The concert will be the finale of a Gary Sinise Foundation First Responder Appreciation Day honoring police, firefighters and emergency medical crews.

"We're going to make sure that the focus is where it needs to be, on our first responders," Sinise said in a phone interview. "We do these events to draw attention to the men and women who protect our cities, and that's what we'll do in Erie on Sept. 11."

First Responder Appreciation Day

The day-long event will include grant awards to local police and fire departments and a fundraising golf tournament, celebrity item auction and car cruise.

The centerpiece event will be the free Lt. Dan Band concert at Liberty Park's Highmark Amphitheater. Named for Sinise's signature role in "Forrest Gump," the band performs at military bases in the U.S. and abroad and in communities nationwide.

"The band never charges for concerts. It performs to boost the morale of troops and first responders and to raise awareness of what they do," Sean Perseo said.

Perseo, of Erie, is a former Marine who serves on the Gary Sinise Foundation advisory board and is ambassador of outreach for Sunbelt Rentals, which is sponsoring the First Responders Appreciation Day. The nationwide equipment rental company partners with the Gary Sinise Foundation to honor and support the military and first responders.

Erie Insurance is also supporting the Erie event.

Stolen Silver will open the concert at 7:30 p.m. The Lt. Dan Band takes the stage at 8. Erie first responders will be treated to food and refreshments during the show.

The golf tournament will be held at Fairview's Lake Shore Country Club with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. The celebrity auction during the event will include an "Apollo 13" movie poster gifted by Sinise and signed by cast members and director Ron Howard.

Also among auction items will be an old-time-Hollywood-style movie camera crafted of brass, bronze, steel and copper by Erie metal artist Adam Stempka. A metal "Action!" clapboard attached to it will be signed by Sinise and other celebrities, including actor Joe Mantegna, who with Sinise co-hosted this year's PBS National Memorial Day Concert on the U.S. Capitol lawn.

"It's a sculpture that would cost $30,000 to $50,000 to build, and we're only covering the cost of the materials," Perseo said. "We're very grateful to Adam."

Nationally known custom car builder and TV celebrity Chip Foose will be grand marshal for the CruiseTown Erie-sponsored car cruise on State Street, between Fourth and 12th streets, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Classic cars, antique cars, sports cars, muscle cars, race cars — any cars of interest to enthusiasts — are welcome, organizer George Lyons said.

Drivers will be asked for donations to the Gary Sinise Foundation. Golf tournament and auction proceeds also will benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Erie-area police and fire departments also will benefit from the First Responder Appreciation Day. Sponsors expect to present $100,000 in grants for equipment, training and other needs, Perseo said.

Gary Sinise: Sept. 11 was 'a turning point for me'

As an actor, Gary Sinise has won acclaim for a number of roles, including an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for title roles in "Truman" and "George Wallace."

But it was his portrayal of wounded Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump" that changed his life by expanding his longtime, behind-the-scenes support of veterans.

"After the movie came out, Disabled American Veterans invited me to their national convention. I went, and there were 2,000 wounded veterans in a ballroom. It was overwhelming, and impactful," said Sinise, who also volunteers for USO and an array of military and veterans' causes.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks further broadened his philanthropic work.

"It was a turning point for me. It turned me toward service in more of a full-time expedition," Sinise said. "I just started raising my hand wherever I could to support our troops and support the FDNY and the organizations lending a hand to New York City first responders.

"That's why, when I started my foundation in 2011, I created a first responder outreach program that supports firefighters and police officers and helps them in various ways, providing training, equipment and vehicles, even building homes for wounded police officers."

Gary Sinise delivers welcoming remarks at the Patriot Awards Gala hosted by the Medal of Honor Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee, in September.
Gary Sinise delivers welcoming remarks at the Patriot Awards Gala hosted by the Medal of Honor Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee, in September.

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Also among its many services, the Gary Sinise Foundation builds smart homes for severely wounded veterans, provides the resources that wounded veterans and first responders need to live independently, and treats the families of fallen heroes to trips and special events.

As an individual, Sinise meets servicemen and women one-on-one.

"I started doing that in war zones, in hospitals and at different events and created my foundation to provide services and support," Sinise said. "And the heartbeat of all of that is just bringing joy and lifting people up, and trying to make a better day for folks.

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"It's a good feeling to know that just by showing up you can do that for somebody."

Details of some First Responder Appreciation Day events are still being finalized.

Contact Valerie Myers at

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band to perform at Liberty Park Sept. 11