OKLAHOMA CITY — It is important to build a community of support around a wounded warrior, actor Gary Sinise said.
Sinise visited Scott Sabolich Prosthetics and Research in Oklahoma City on Tuesday to help change the life of an American hero. He was accompanied by retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rusty Dunagan of Edmond, Okla., a triple amputee injured in Afghanistan.
A roadside bomb in Afghanistan injured Dunagan in 2010. The Gary Sinise Foundation is raising money to build Dunagan’s smart home through the foundation’s Restoring Independence & Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program.
“We’ve got to help folks like Rusty have a happy life,” Sinise said. “And that’s what we’re doing here in Oklahoma City. And now we’re focusing on Rusty and his family in getting them a brand new home that is specifically designed for them.”
New limbs for Dunagan are being designed at the Sabolich lab. The facility is known for its patented socket design technology.
Sabolich is the largest privately owned prosthetic facility in the United States. People from all across the country, both military folks and civilians, come there for the latest in state-of-the-art technology, Sinise said.
“Nowadays we’ve got a lot better options for them then we’ve ever had for them just because of the increase of technology,” Sabolich said.
There are 3,000 new amputees each week in the U.S., he said.
Sinise has veterans in his family and has interacted with the military community for a long time, he said. After playing a double-amputee 20 years ago in the film “Forrest Gump,” he became involved with the Disabled American Veterans Association, Sinise told The Edmond Sun.
Sinise met a lot of wounded veterans spanning from World War II to Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
“Little did we know that we would be attacked on Sept. 11 and we’d be at war and we’d be at war for a dozen years,” Sinise said. “And we have many, many, many Lieutenant Dans out there that need help.”
So Sinise took the next step in helping those who serve and protect the U.S., he said. Today, the Gary Sinise Foundation is three years old.
“Taking care of our veterans is something we learned a lot about during the Vietnam War, because we learned how not to treat our veterans,” Sinise said.
The Oklahoma City community is focused on its veterans and military with a sold-out screening of “Forrest Gump” on Monday and Tuesday, he said.
“My transition out of the military to civilian life has been easy with the community support we’ve gotten,” Dunagan said.