Gary Sinise tells us about participating in D.C.’s upcoming National Memorial Day Parade, and honoring veterans through his Lt. Dan Band and namesake foundation.
Though he formed the Lt. Dan Band in 2004, ten years after taking on the iconic role in Forrest Gump, actor Gary Sinise has been actively involved in philanthropy for veterans since the '80s, even founding the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011. This Memorial Day, Sinise is participating in D.C.’s National Memorial Day Parade honoring those who have served our country.
Here, we sit down with Sinise to take about what visitors can expect to see at the parade, his upcoming show at The Howard Theatre, and why giving back to veterans is so near and dear to him.
Why did you decide to get involved with the National Memorial Day Parade? Gary Sinise: I started doing the National Memorial Day concert in 2005, which is the night before the parade, on Sunday night. They were starting up the parade again and asked if I would come. I said yes and have been a part of it ever since. Most folks I’ve brought to the parade are wounded veterans who are friends of mine. It’s really a great opportunity to spend time with some great Americans and shine a light on them.
What can visitors look forward to seeing during the parade? GS: Musical performances are involved. Phil Vassar will be there and Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell. Tony Orlando, he’s a longtime veterans supporter, he’ll be there. There will be a salute to World War II veterans since we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Legendary American hero Buzz Aldrin will be with us. I’ll be riding in the parade. It’s really another great opportunity for men and women to support the folks serving our country.
Why did you decide to get involved with philanthropy for veterans in the military? GS: It starts with the veterans in my own family. On my side there are World War I and World War II as well as Korean War veterans. On my wife’s side there are Vietnam and Cold War veterans, as well as a current active duty service member in the Army. There are a lot of veterans in my family. It also goes back to the '80s when I got involved with Vietnam vets in Chicago, and I got to play one years later in Forrest Gump. The interest was decades long, and it later manifested itself into the Gary Sinise Foundation. I’m raising awareness as often and wherever I can. There are great ways to keep the awareness up, such as the Memorial Day weekend concert and parade.
What are your thoughts on advocacy for veterans, especially in D.C.? GS: I always say we can never do enough for our veterans. I do what I can to make sure they know they’re appreciated and we aren’t forgetting about them—that we’re grateful and appreciate the benefits they provide to us. The cost of freedom is high.
Your group the Lt. Dan Band is performing at The Howard Theatre. Which songs are your favorite to play? GS: Oh gosh, my band plays so many songs. The concert on Saturday night is to launch the 10th anniversary season of the GI Film Festival. I was there the first year and offered to bring the band to kick off the festival this year with a rock concert. We play songs from all generations—contemporary, classic, pop, rock, swing. I put the band together to play for the military, and their families really enjoy it.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has been renewed. What can viewers expect to see in the second season? GS: I can guarantee we’ll be chasing bad guys in countries all over the world. Every episode takes place in a different country, but I’m not sure yet what countries will be visiting. Writers are working on things to get a great lineup of episodes.
When you visit D.C., what are your favorite places to eat and drink? GS: Usually I don’t have a lot of time when I’m there. I will be at Walter Reed the day before the concert doing an Invincible Spirit Festival. We’ll bring the band in and Robert Irvine will make some food and cook for everyone. It’s a great time. I do the festivals at military hospitals around the country. When I’m in D.C. I also like to visit my daughter who’s in school there.