Sinise concert to aid Marine

By HECTOR SALDANA | San Antonio Express-News | Published: October 2, 2013

Before he was an award-winning film and TV actor, Gary Sinise was a rock musician.

It's safe to say he couldn't have predicted that years later he'd be playing bass guitar for a good cause in a classic-rock cover band named for his “Forrest Gump” character, Lt. Dan Taylor.

Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band perform at 7 p.m. Friday at Lila Cockrell Theatre.

“I didn't know that the movie would be as successful as it was and that (Lt. Dan) would still resonate 20 years later,” Sinise said in a telephone interview. “But I realized that the military community had this sort of connection to him.”

That he's harnessed that image is testament not so much to the power of a hit film but to his passionate determination and commitment to the mission of the nonprofit Gary Sinise Foundation.

“The band is part of an overall mission to do what I can to support our military veteran and first responder community,” said Sinise, who is involved in several causes for wounded warriors.

Sinise played music through his early 20s but gave it up for a time to focus on his acting career. That changed after the attacks of Sept. 11.

“I just felt like there was some role for me to play,” he said.

A mobile 9/11 exhibit will be parked outside Lila Cockrell Theatre on Friday and Saturday.

Proceeds from Friday's concert are earmarked for building an automated, high-tech smart house for Marine Gunnery Sgt. Travis Green, a Canyon Lake resident who was severely wounded in September 2011 while deployed in Afghanistan.

Like Sinise's “Forrest Gump” character, Green lost both his legs above the knees.

“We're going to make sure we take care of him in San Antonio,” Sinise said.

The home-building program, called Building for America's Bravest, is a joint effort between Sinise's organization and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Donations are accepted online at garysinise foundation.org.

Both organizations have a hand in the selection of a recipient.

By the end of 2013, the home-building program is expected to have completed or broken ground on 26 smart homes.

Green, 32, an Inez native, is married and has four young daughters and a stepson. They live in a rental home near Canyon Lake, not far from where their new home will be built.

“I really appreciate Gary but I don't really care for the attention. I'm sort of a private guy,” said Green, a 14-year veteran of the Marines Corps.

As a Marine, Green was a part of an explosive ordnance disposal team. He was wounded as his tour of duty in Afghanistan was about to end.

He's mastered his new prosthetic legs but said that around the house it's a little bit easier to use a wheelchair.

“I get around pretty good now. I kind of get around better than most double AKs (above-the-knee amputees),” Green said. “I'm kind of taking this injury as an opportunity to spend more time with my kids. This is a really important time.”

He called the smart home project a godsend.

“I don't have to worry as much,” said Green, who will be at Friday's concert.

For more than a decade, Sinise has played hundreds of such shows as, he said, a sign of “appreciation” and “to raise money and boost morale and raise awareness.”

He has a lot of fun, too.

“I've never made a dime personally on it. It's really all part of the effort to give back,” he said.

“The band has become a program part of the foundation because it's not a moneymaking venture for me to go out and play cover tunes all over the country all the time. I'm not a professional musician who makes my living writing songs; I'm an actor.”

But Sinise, 58, really does it to keep the cause of wounded veterans in the headlines. It requires constant reminding.

“Many of our wounded just are fearful that they'll be forgotten the way our Vietnam veterans were,” he said. “And having Vietnam veterans in my family and remembering all too well what happened to them when they came home from war and how a country turned its back on them.

“We still have thousands of troops in Afghanistan. We lose them all the time. We continue to lose our soldiers and Marines in battle in Afghanistan, yet they're off the front page. People aren't really focused on the fact that we're still engaged in that war over 12 years later.”

Green echoed that sentiment.

“I have friends that have had multiple, multiple deployments,” he said. “There are a lot of nonvisible injuries that can be extremely debilitating.”

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