Gary Sinise, best known for his portrayal of disabled Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump," writes an inspirational memoir filled with meaning and purpose. In "Grateful American: A Journey From Self To Service," Sinise shares his life's journey, inviting the reader to walk with him on a path littered with bumps and bruises, flaws, failures, joys and prayerful gratitude.
As a self-described youth with no direction in his life, Sinise began his acting career in high school. In 1974, he was one of the original founding members of Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. In 1981, he married actress Moira Harris — one of the longest-lasting marriages by Hollywood standards but one fraught with troubles from the beginning, including his wife's battle with alcoholism. Sinise's stellar acting career earned him many awards and much recognition, including an Academy Award nomination and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Yet, it is his deep respect and generous support of America's soldiers for which he is best known.
Sinise's relationship with the nation's active military and veterans began in 2003 with a USO tour, although for many years prior to this, he had always had a special place in his heart for those who had served America in its time of need. Later, he would begin to visit wounded soldiers in military hospitals and still later, he would create the Lt. Dan Band, named for his character in "Forrest Gump," to tour military bases around the world to support and entertain America's troops.
Sinise describes himself as a person of action. He sees his work with the military and with American veterans as his personal mission in life.
Along with that, he has also raised funds to provide Iraqi children with much-needed school supplies and supported military families, especially children of soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.
Each year, Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band host the annual Snowball Express event at Disney World Florida for the thousands of children who have lost a parent in military action. In addition, he sponsors many other programs focusing on active military, veterans and those in need through the Gary Sinise Foundation created in 2011. The foundation has provided thousands of meals to service men and women in military bases the world over, as well as raised funds to build smart homes for handicapped veterans, among its many charitable services.
Sinise writes "being able to provide these supportive services for our many real-life Lt. Dans is an incredible honor." He continues to hold a deep and abiding belief in his mission to those who have fought to keep safe our American freedoms. In trying to make the world a better place, Sinise feels a deep-seated gratitude for those who have sacrificed for their country (a gratitude we should all feel each and every day).
His mission "is one of respect, of honor, and of gratitude a mission of serving other people" and in doing so helping the rest of us to "never forget."
Kimberly Bolton is a circulation clerk at Missouri River Regional Library.