Actor and vet-supporter Gary Sinise celebrated 25 years of partnership with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) last week.
Sinise’s advocacy for U.S. veterans began with the receipt of an award from the DAV on Aug. 21, 1994 which praised Sinise for his performance as Lt. Dan Taylor in the film Forrest Gump, according to a Gary Sinise Foundation blog post.
The National Commander’s Award consisted of a framed document that told Sinise, “Your superb performance brought awareness of the lifelong sacrifice of disabled veterans back into public consciousness in a remarkably positive way.”
In a video released by DAV, the group’s former national commander, Dennis Joyner said of Sinise’s Forrest Gump role, “I don’t know of any other actor or actress that played a role and then adopted it as part of their personal life.”
“Twenty-five years later, and he’s still at it,” Joyner added.
The character Lt. Dan was a double amputee from combat wounds received during the Vietnam War. The unconventional role resonated with wounded vets everywhere.
“It was an honor to play Lt. Dan, I guess it was in some ways — you know when Lt. Dan talks about his destiny, I kinda feel like there was something at play there, that I would get to play that part,” Sinise said in the video.
That award and overall reception of his role jumpstarted Sinise’s mission to show his support and appreciation for all U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. The impactful experience also served as the focus of the prologue for his book, Grateful American.
In the years following the award, Sinise served as national spokesperson for the DAV’s effort to construct the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., a project that was completed Oct. 5, 2014.
When the memorial was dedicated, Sinise’s speech included a quote by President Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”
“As Gary continues his mission of honoring and showing gratitude to our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need, the foresight of President Lincoln and the understanding of the ongoing sacrifices and battles our veterans continue to face, are at the forefront of his commitment to do always do a little more,” the foundation post released.
Sinise has also supported the group in many other ways, including holding 15 concerts with his Lt. Dan Band at DAV’s annual convention.
DAV has gone on to open more than 100 office locations nationwide and has helped more than 11 million veterans by providing assistance when filing claims benefits.