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Gary Sinise Explains How 9/11 Motivated Him To Help Military Personnel, First Responders

Photo from the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Instagram

Gary Sinise Explains How 9/11 Motivated Him To Help Military Personnel, First Responders

By Movieguide® Staff

Actor Gary Sinise will serve as the master of ceremonies for the upcoming Patriot Award Gala at the 2022 Medal of Honor Celebration.

Aside from his roles on-screen, Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation have worked to help real-life veterans and their families for the past 11 years.

“I’ve met some inspirational people that have motivated me,” Sinise told Knox News. “And if I can give back to them by helping them with their efforts, then that’s a way that I can continue to serve.”

Sinise said that he is excited to see old friends at the celebration, which he had to miss the past few years due to COVID-19.

“It’s been a couple of years with the pandemic, since I’ve been able to really engage with the recipients the way I normally would,” he said. “I’ve been involved with them now for I think … my first engagement with the recipients was back in 2004. So it’s nearly 20 years. I really started supporting them in different ways in ’07, and every year since then I’ll do multiple events with them.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing many of my pals. I’ve got many friends in the recipient community, and they are very personal friends,” he said.

Sinise said that his desire to make a difference for veterans grew after the tragic events of 9/11.

“A lot of things were kind of put in place in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, that sort of grew into this full-on mission after September 11,” he said. “I can point to a lot of the veterans in my own family, a lot of the veterans I engaged with back in the ’80s in Chicago, to having a significant impact on me, and were very influential on what I would end up doing after September 11, which was to just focus on trying to help them through difficult times.”

“I remember after September 11, 2001, I just found this aching, this terrible feeling, this broken heart, this sadness, and I remember going to our little Catholic Church on the Friday after the Tuesday,” he continued. “And the priest, I don’t even know if he said this, but I heard it, that service to others can be a great way to heal your broken heart. And I don’t know if he said it, but I heard it, and I tried to turn that into action.”

The Gary Sinise Foundation serves not only military personnel and their families but also first responders. Sinise said this was also brought on by what he witnessed on September 11.

“That’s very much rooted in September 11, no question about that,” he said.

Sinise is best known on the screen for his role as Lt. Dan in the Academy Award-winning movie FORREST GUMP.

“I remember the first time I walked into the hospital room over 20 years ago and saw a real life Lt. Dan laying there in a hospital bed,” Sinise recalled. “He’d been blown up in Iraq or Afghanistan, can’t remember which one. Missing leg, missing an arm, blind in one eye, really banged up, and he saw me walk in the room. He didn’t even know what my real name was. He just recognized me right off the bat for Lt. Dan. And they told him Lt. Dan was coming, so he was excited, but he just wanted to talk about the story of Lt. Dan.”

“I started to tell him the story and talk about how we made the movie and all of that kind of thing. And I realized, you know, well, of course, the Lt. Dan story for a wounded veteran, is the exact story that we want for every wounded veteran,” he added. “Maybe not so much the post-traumatic stress side of it and the isolation side of it. We don’t want that. But quite often because of what they’ve been through in trauma in getting blown up or getting shot up or something like that, they’re going to go through that. That’s a natural response to a traumatic event. But what we also want is the ending of that story of Lt. Dan, where they’re standing up there making peace with God. They’re making peace with themselves for the guilt that they may hold.”

“Our perception of the Vietnam veteran, back then, was always the guy who’s drinking himself to death in the corner, and not somebody that moves forward. So I think that the story of Lt. Dan really resonates in a very powerful way for our veterans.”

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