Sinese Supports Disabled Veterans' Memorial

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 - Actor and military advocate Gary Sinise earned praise for his portrayal of a disabled Vietnam veteran in the 1994 movie, "Forrest Gump." Sinise now is helping to build a memorial for America's 3 million living disabled military veterans.

The spokesman for the Disabled Veterans Life Memorial Foundation, Sinise, 51, said it's important to recognize disabled veterans' military service and personal sacrifices, especially when America and its armed forces are engaged in a global war on terrorism.

"Having known so many Vietnam veterans and remembering all too well how they were received when they returned from war, I wanted to do my part to make sure that never happens again," Sinise said, noting that returning Vietnam veterans were treated poorly.

Today's U.S. servicemembers, unlike the conscription force employed during Vietnam, "serve freely," Sinise said.

"They should be shown appreciation and respect -- always," the Academy-Award nominated actor said. "Their sacrifices are many and they need our support."

Over the past three years Sinise has participated in more than 20 tours with the United Service Organizations to visit overseas-deployed U.S. troops and visited with wounded servicemembers. Sometimes, he took along his "Lt. Dan Band," named after Lt. Dan Taylor, the character he played in "Forrest Gump."

"Each time I visit our wounded I'm struck by their humility, their courage, determination, their acceptance, and their dedication to our country and their fellow warriors," Sinise said.

Supporting U.S. servicemembers "is truly one of the most rewarding things that I've ever done," Sinise said. "I know that they don't have to do this work, and I'm grateful that we have people like them who want to volunteer to defend this great nation in military service."

Letting America's servicemen and women know that their service to the nation is appreciated and won't be forgotten can make a great deal of difference, Sinise said. And, supporting America's disabled military veterans, he added, also is the right and proper thing to do.

"And, as these (disabled) veterans face a life for which no one can prepare, so must their families and friends," Sinise said.

The $65 million memorial will honor America's disabled military veterans from all the nation's wars, Sinise said. It will be built adjacent to the National Mall here, within full view of the U.S. Capitol.

Sinise noted his appreciation of and paid tribute to the families of disabled veterans.

"Their heroic devotion is a source of strength for those striving to heal," Sinise said. "Freedom is so precious. And those who protect it and sacrifice for it deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The award-winning actor also is an advocate of the "America Supports You" program, a Defense Department initiative that recognizes citizen and corporate support for U.S. military members and communicates that support to servicemembers at home and deployed overseas in the global war on terrorism.

Sinise and "The Lt. Dan Band" will perform a benefit concert tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Washington Auto Show at the Convention Center here. Proceeds will go to the Fisher House organization, which provides accommodations for military families when visiting with seriously ill loved ones.

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