Saturday night, the gym at Ritz-Epps Physical Fitness Center will rock with cover tunes from Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band.
Sinise said he started the band to boost morale and lift spirits for American troops in a post-9/11 world.
“I wanted to try to make sure service members deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan would know that they were appreciated and that we weren’t forgetting what they were doing in response to the war on terror,” he said.
However, Sinise’s appreciation for the military began long before America’s most recent war.
Both he and his wife have veterans in their Family, with several Vietnam veterans on his wife’s side. In the 1980s, he began supporting Vietnam veterans groups in the Chicago area.
Roughly a decade later, Sinise’s life became forever tied with wounded veterans when he played Lt. Dan Taylor in the Hollywood blockbuster “Forrest Gump.” He said after the movie came out, he was contacted by Disabled American Veterans and has been working to support them ever since.
Sinise raises funds for disabled veterans through his foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation. The Lt. Dan Band is one of several programs that are a part of the foundation. Others include Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment, or RISE, which provides specially-adapted smart homes and more to wounded veterans; and Invincible Spirit Festivals at military hospitals.
This weekend will not be Sinise’s first time at Fort Bragg. He has performed several concerts here and has also visited for memorial ceremonies and other events.
“This base is one of the largest and has been one of the busiest during this post-9/11 war that we’re in, so whenever I can come and show some support I feel privileged to be able to do that,” Sinise said. “Each time I come is a great memory and a great experience because I meet our Soldiers and their Families.”
Saturday’s concert will be a variety show, with songs for children and adults alike, Sinise explained.
He said his favorite part is watching Families enjoy themselves during the show.
“That’s the most important thing — is to leave people feeling good,” Sinise said. “I like to deliver a message as well. I like to speak to our service members and their Families and make sure they know the mission I’m on is a serious one and we do not take what they’re doing for granted.”