News: Lt. Dan Band returns to MCB Hawaii with tools to DSTRESS
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
Illuminating Hangar 103 with equal doses of energy, hits and charisma, Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band returned to Marine Corps Base Hawaii for a United Service Organizations-sponsored concert, Feb. 11, 2011.
Shielded inside the hangar bay from persistent showers, the band played their fourth concert in five years for Hawaii Marines, sailors and their families. While their mission to entertain remained unchanged from past performances, this visit focused on a new purpose — advocating the Marine Corps’ new DSTRESS Line.
Advertised as “a place to call for those with the courage to answer our nation’s call,” DSTRESS offers regular, reserve, veteran, and Marine retirees and their families an anonymous call center staffed by Marine veterans, former Fleet Marine Force corpsmen, and licensed behavioral health counselors trained in Marine Corps culture and ethos.
“Pride and stigmas that surround asking for help prevent a lot of Marines from coming forward,” said retired Col. Jay Vargas, a Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam War veteran. “If you’ve got a problem, you need to come forward and seek help.”
Vargas and retired Army Maj. Drew Dix, a fellow Medal of Honor recipient, joined Sinise on stage before the concert to tell the audience about DSTRESS, which offers help in coping with both post-deployment stressors and those of everyday military life.
Sinise said “the critical element is having Marines on the other line to talk to” because they are able to understand the situations callers are faced with.
“We wanted to bring to attention to the people here tonight that there are avenues to turn to in order to get help,” Sinise said. “We’re asking a whole lot of our service members, and we have to fill in the gaps where there are cracks and get people help.”
Hailing from a military family, Sinise has been active in supporting the USO since 2003. He is known for his roles as Army 2nd Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie “Forrest Gump,” and Detective Mac Taylor in the TV show “Crime Scene Investigation: New York.”
“Performing and doing shows is my way of giving back,” Sinise said. “It’s important to show that somebody like me is out here to support our troops.”
Wielding an electric bass guitar, Sinise joined his 12-person cover band to open the concert with Earth, Wind and Fire’s funky, late 1970s hit, “September.” Following with Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Sinise led a crowd of young and old ladies onto the stage, dropping to his knees and playing the tune as 3-year-old Elle Davis smiled and danced next to him.
After playing more favorites like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” the band stopped playing and the buzzing crowd grew quiet. Resting his hands on top of his guitar, Sinise moved up to the microphone and thanked the Marines, sailors and their families for their service and sacrifices.
“We appreciate what you guys do for us,” Sinise said. “You are in the fight and putting your lives on the line for our country — the least I can do as somebody in the spotlight is to make sure your sacrifice is not forgotten.”
Asking the audience to sing the words with them, the band concluded the concert with the patriotic Lee Greenwood song, “God Bless the USA.”
Departing Hawaii, Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will continue to advocate the DSTRESS Line during free concerts at Marine Corps installations in Arizona and California. Heroes of past wars like Vargas and Dix will join them and continue to spread the word.
“The operations tempo of today is so heavy,” Vargas said. “We’re here to help you all relieve stress.”
Even though military life can be a tough road, Vargas said, stress and suicides can be prevented by leaders taking care of their troops, setting the example, and providing them tools like the DSTRESS Line.
“The DSTRESS Line is working, and it’s not just enlisted Marines calling — it’s officers too,” Vargas said.
In December of last year alone, Vargas said the call center received 387 calls from service members and spouses seeking assistance.
“We just want you to know it’s ok to come forward if you need help,” Vargas said. “If I could save one Marine’s life by advocating the DSTRESS Line, I’d be the happiest man in the world.”