'Forrest Gump' actor performs at Fort Benning

benw@ledger-enquirer.comApril 1, 2014 

Gary Sinise, the actor who portrayed Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 comedy drama “Forrest Gump,” and his 12-member band will perform Saturday at Fort Benning in a free USO concert.

The 7 p.m. event at Weatherby Field is expected to attract thousands of active duty soldiers, retired soldiers and their families. It is also open to the Department of Defense civilian employees.

Sinise, 59, has performed in 130 concerts and made nearly 70 appearances across the United States and around the world since the Lt. Dan Band was formed in early 2004.

This is Sinise’s and the band’s first visit to Fort Benning, home of the Maneuver Center of Excellence. Sinise’s last visit to the Columbus area was in March 2009, when he went to Carmike 15 to promote “Brothers at War,” a documentary film he helped executive produce.

Sinise has supported the servicemen and women in America for more than 30 years. His family has deep roots in military service and he had a desire to contribute after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. He formed the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011 to serve the nation by honoring veterans, first responders and people in need. The foundation creates and supports unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.

Born in Blue Island, Ill., Sinise and his family later moved to Highland Park where he attended high school and also played in a band. He became hooked on acting after he and some friends tried out for the musical “West Side Story.”

In Hollywood, Sinise’s career started as a director before he moved into feature films in early 1990s. Acting and directing, he was in “Of Mice and Men” in 1992 and starred in the miniseries “The Stand” in 1994 before starring with actor Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump.”

In the movie, Sinise portrayed a disabled veteran, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination and numerous awards. He is one of three actors ever to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service to the nation. Some other awards include The Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Medal of Honor Society, the Spirit of the USO Award and the Spirit of Hope Award presented by the Department of Defense.

He is a big supporter of R.I.S.E., Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment, through his foundation. The foundation is building smart homes across the country for severely wounded heroes, their caregivers and family. The homes are built to help them overcome the challenges they face from injuries sustained while serving their country.

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