Gary Sinise Celebrates 25 Years of Helping Military Veterans and Their Families

September 3, 2019 Updated: September 9, 2019

It’s been 25 years since actor Gary Sinise took on one of the most pivotal roles in cinematic military portrayal, and he’s been devoted to improving the lives of military veterans for just as long.

The 64-year-old Illinois native cemented himself in history when he took on the part of Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the American classic 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” serving as the platoon leader (and eventual best friend) of the movie’s atypical main character, played by Tom Hanks.

Upon receiving the National Commander's Award from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) on August 21, 1994, for his…

Posted by Gary Sinise Foundation on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Upon receiving the National Commander's Award from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) on August 21, 1994, for his…

Posted by Gary Sinise Foundation on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sinise’s portrayal of the inner turmoil of Lt. Dan, who lost both of his legs in the Vietnam War and had to relearn to accept himself as a crippled veteran, helped inspire the actor to focus his off-screen efforts on helping real-life veterans with the struggles they face after returning from the battlefield. He launched the Gary Sinise Foundation to raise money for military service members and their families and even formed a band—Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band—that tours American military outposts overseas to perform for soldiers during their deployments.

Now, he’s officially looking back on a quarter-century’s worth of work helping veterans.

The work began when Sinise received an award in 1994 from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), highlighting just how important his portrayal of a disabled veteran was to their community.

Upon receiving the National Commander's Award from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) on August 21, 1994, for his…

Posted by Gary Sinise Foundation on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sinise was moved to work with DAV thanks to the mental illness and alcoholism struggles that Lt. Dan faced following his injuries in the war. According to the award he was presented, the commendation helps fans see beyond just how he would eventually lend his resources to veterans—it looks at how he started by lending his talent as an actor to them, as well. His portrayal of Lt. Dan, the award explained, helped bring veteran disabilities back into the forefront of the American consciousness.

“Your superb performance brought awareness of the lifelong sacrifice of disabled veterans back into public consciousness in a remarkable positive way,” the award read, according to The Daily Wire.

That commendation helped Sinise realize that he could do more than just help veterans through playing them on the silver screen. He started what would ultimately become a quarter-century (and counting) of advocacy helping one of America’s most forgotten groups, providing both financial support and exposure to encourage others to do the same.

The DAV went on to commend him for carrying forward decades worth of work. He even stepped up to the plate in 2014, a full 20 years after he finished playing the role of Lt. Dan onscreen, and advocated for the building of a new memorial—American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“The memorial honors veterans of the armed forces of the United States who were permanently disabled during the course of their national service,” a release states.

“I don’t know of any other actor or actress that played a role and then adopted it as part of their personal life,” said Dennis Joyner, a former national commander for DAV. “Twenty-five years later, and he’s still at it.”

Sinise has also supported wounded vets and their families by giving away accessibly smart homes to improve their quality of life, made possible vacations to fun places like Disney World for children of fallen soldiers, and provided office support for over 11 million veterans to properly file claims for their rightly owed benefits, and much, much more.

Posted by Gary Sinise Foundation on Thursday, August 11, 2016

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