By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vernishia R. Vaughn, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO – Actor, director, musician and honorary chief petty officer Gary Sinise, along with celebrity chef Robert Irvine, brought his seventh annual Invincible Spirit Festival back to Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) June 15.
The Invincible Spirit Festival tour at NMCSD is the 21st tour, but the seventh one at NMCSD, and has a simple mission: to lift the spirits and boost morale of NMCSD staff, wounded service members, veterans, their families and caregivers, and to help keep them strong by delivering a message of appreciation and support for all who serve.
NMCSD Commanding Officer Capt. Bradford Smith said during his remarks at the festival, “Without the support of the community there is no way that we can do what we do each and everyday. And it’s people like Gary Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation who really make that possible.”
Before the festival kickoff, Sinise visited retired and active-duty patients. During his visit Sinise, whose family has strong ties to the military, extended an invitation to those in attendance to enjoy the concert and grab food prepared by celebrity chef Robert Irvine and Team Irvine.
For one patient, a visit from Sinise has made her stay at NMCSD much better.
“I thank you for being so supportive of our men and women in service,” said Mary Leffler to Sinise. “It means the world to me that you’d come visit, and it’s a moment I’ll always remember.”
The Invincible Spirit Festival is one of the many programs organized by the Gary Sinise Foundation in its ongoing mission to support veterans, wounded warriors, caretakers and families.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to pop in and bring a little joy,” said Sinise.
Spirits were sure to be lifted as food was served by Irvine alongside plenty of family-friendly activities including a classic car show, rock wall, face painting, and a burger flipping competition where every burger flipped and caught by Sinise earned him a $5,000 donation from the Team Irvine Foundation, and music by Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
“We do the Invincible Spirit Festivals because there are a lot of invincible spirits here,” said Sinise.
Sinise’s hope for every man and woman serving this country is this: although they go through a lot of challenges while serving, they come out okay in the end. That hope was inspired by the Lt. Dan character he played in the movie, “Forrest Gump.”
“Lt. Dan played a great role in my life in more ways than one,” said Sinise.
With a mission to provide hope, comradery and support, the day-long festival is a reminder to celebrate the courage of our country’s injured heroes and their families, as well as to show gratitude to the dedicated hospital staff.
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit www.navy.mil/local/sd/.