The actor’s foundation hosts several programs and builds specially adapted homes for wounded soldiers.
Posted in , Mar 13, 2020
Gary Sinise has won many accolades throughout his career—an Emmy Award, Golden Globe, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—but it was a recently snagged honor that almost brought the actor to tears.
During the week when Hollywood’s elite gathered for the Oscars earlier this year, Sinise was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award—the organization’s highest honor—for his ongoing work with veterans.
“To receive this award from them is very special,” a teary-eyed Sinise reportedly said while accepting the award from his friend and fellow actor Joe Mantegna on February 5 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi, California. "It’s a great, great honor.”
Sinise, 64, has never served in the military, but is perhaps best known for two roles in which he portrays veterans: Lieutenant Dan in the 1994 blockbuster Forrest Gump and Detective Mac Taylor in the long-running TV drama CSI:NY.
Sinise made his first U.S.O. trip to Iraq in 2003 and has never looked back when it comes to supporting the nation’s military and veterans. “Serving and honoring our defenders has become my calling,” Sinise told Guideposts in 2016.
In the past decade, Sinise has crisscrossed the globe visiting hospitals and military bases, raising funds, and performing in war zones hundreds of times with his band, The Lt. Dan Band. He even founded the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2010, helping the country’s defenders, veterans, first responders and their families in a wide variety of ways. From the Snowball Express, which hosts year-round events for families who have lost a loved one in service to the country—in December more than 1,700 children of the fallen spent five days in Disney World—to ongoing resiliency workshops, bestowing emergency relief grants, serving meals, pairing high school students with WWII vets, and training first responders.
“A lot of what I do is just raising awareness,” Sinise shared with Guideposts magazine. “Do you know that there are thousands of such children, all of them going through the grief of losing a mother or a father?”
In 2009, Sinise met the first post-9/11 quadruple amputee, U.S. Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco. This emotional encounter prompted the actor to establish the R.I.S.E program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), which builds mortgage-free, specially adapted smart homes for severely-wounded warriors. To date, the foundation has completed 61 homes, with dozens more in the works.
“Watching so many of them face their challenges and move ahead in life has motivated me to continue to serve them with everything I have in me,” Sinise said of the program and the veterans it works with, emphasizing that you don’t need to be a Hollywood star to do the type of work he does.
“You don’t need to be a Florence Nightingale or a Mother Teresa to serve others,” he told Guideposts. “Just be yourself. You have your own gifts.”