Actor and musician Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band — named for his Oscar nominated role in Forrest Gump — are on a mission: to entertain U.S. troops at home and abroad. His latest tour of duty is the Building for America's Bravest concert tour, raising money to build custom homes for severely wounded veterans. He makes a stop in Tampa's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 7 p.m. Friday to benefit Sgt. Michael Nicholson, a triple amputee and Tampa native who served in Afghanistan. Last year, we had a chance to talk to the CSI: NY actor.
1 WHAT LED TO YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH ENTERTAINING SOLDIERS?
It just felt like a call to action after Sept. 11, when we started deploying troops overseas. … I just wanted to jump in and make sure they knew they were appreciated and supported.
2YOU GREW UP DURING THE VIETNAM ERA, WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE OFTEN SCORNED RETURNING VETERANS. WHERE DID YOU LEAN DURING THAT TIME?
I was playing in a rock band, so I was not politically aware. But I have great compassion and guilt for what happened to our Vietnam veterans. It was horrible. Every high school and college campus at that time was having these war moratoriums and peace rallies. … So, I put on a black armband and went, just to get out of class and listen to kids sing folk songs. Just like everybody I watched the images on televisions: 500 killed every week, coming back in body bags, and the nation exploding. . . . It was a very, very difficult time, and sadly our Vietnam veterans became victims of a divided nation.
HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING CALLED THIS GENERATION'S BOB HOPE?
I get that. It's a part of my life the way it was with his life. . . . I don't get paid for it. I just believe it's a way that I can serve.
Tickets are $35 lawn, $75 VIP. garysinisefoundation.org