Forrest Gump is often referred to as America's iconic movie. The 2.5 hour movie takes its audience on a journey throughout American history during the latter half of the 20th century and is known for its character portrayals. Perhaps the most impactful performance in the movie comes from Gary Sinise, who plays Lt. Dan - a military veteran who loses both his legs during the Vietnam War.
That performance in 1994 has not only impacted viewers for nearly 20 years, but has also left a major impact with Gary Sinise. Now, 19 years after Forrest Gump was released and with the end of "CSI: New York", Sinise's career focuses on supporting the United States military:
"I have made it a particular mission to do what I can to draw attention to our military and first responder communities and to make sure they know they are remembered and appreciated. Whether through performing with the band, supporting a military charity or visiting the war zones and hospitals to shake some hands and take some pictures, all of it helps them know that there are people out there who are aware of their sacrifices and who understand the importance of keeping our military families strong in difficult times. It is important to remember that these defenders are volunteers."
Sinise is the bass guitar player in the Lt. Dan Band, a band Sinise formed to tour and raise money for veterans. That band, partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, have all contributed to the Building for America’s Bravest™ project - a program which was designed to build smart-homes for those wounded in combat.
Saturday, Sinise and his band played an event in Memphis, Tn to honor Cpl. Christian Brown, who lost both of his legs when he stepped on an IED in December 2011 in Afghanistan. The money raised from this event will be used to construct a smart-home for Cpl. Brown. These smart-homes feature many helpful accommodations, such as automated doors, wheel-chair accessible spaces, and iPad controlled electronics: "It's just frustrating. It's not really ... that difficult. In fact there are so many things that on such a small level, on a day-to-day basis it just starts to add up. It stretches you out a little bit. You wish things could be easy and jump up and do things like everybody else. (The Smart Home) is going to help me with the transition," stated Cpl. Brown.
Since the inception of the Building for America’s Bravest™ project, Sinise and others have helped raised money to build or start construction on 27 different homes for US veterans and have raised more than $11 million. Despite the success his ventures have had, Sinise never believed he would be in this position:
"When I played Lt. Dan in 'Forrest Gump' I never thought that 20 years later I'd still be associated with the character. I knew it was an important movie and I very much wanted to play the part. I have Vietnam veterans in my family and have been associated with Vietnam veterans groups for many years prior to that. So, I really wanted to play the ['Forrest Gump'] part. But could have I predicted that 20 years later people would still call me that? And I'd walk into the hospital room of a double amputee and he would recognize me for that? And that would open the doors for a conversation? No. I couldn't have predicted that."
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