EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, AK, UNITED STATES
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Many know him by his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the film "Forrest Gump." For this reason, Gary Sinise is most likely not known for being a musician who plays bass guitar in a band fittingly named after his famed character.
As part of a USO tour, the actor-musician performed with the Lt. Dan Band in the Thunderdome here on June 23 for service members and their families across interior Alaska. Travelling to Alaska is a unique experience, Sinise said, and it is certainly unique for those stationed throughout the state.
"I've been looking forward to coming back, especially because Alaska is removed from the lower 48. Those who are serving up here can tend to miss out on some things," Sinise said. "Coming to Alaska to visit the troops and support our service members up here is something I feel very good about."
Sinise began volunteering for USO tours after 9/11 and played his first overseas tour in 2003 in Iraq. He said several factors play into his motivation for performing for troops, including an extensive history of family veterans. But his first step was devoting himself to veterans groups as early as the 1980s.
"I remember how I felt when I got involved with various Vietnam veterans groups back in the 80s, and I just felt a lot of compassion for them and what had happened to them," he explained. "I felt compelled to try and help. I feel for our military and I want to help those who have served."
One reason Sinise is devoted to touring is due to having the ability to meet and get to know military members, however brief an encounter might be. To him, knowing the mission and being able to relay that message back to the public is his way of supporting service members.
"I've met extraordinary people in the military," Sinise said. "So if I can see what you all do and go out and talk about it to try and help people understand why we should be very grateful and feel very proud of the dedicated people we have serving our country, then that's the way I can give back."
Those in attendance were able to witness the passion Sinise has for service members. Staff Sgt. Jesse Bradley, 354th Fighter Wing legal office military justice paralegal, said that it was encouraging for both him and his wife to know how patriotic Sinise is.
"It's good to know that there are people out there who will put on the hat and take up the mantle to tell our story," Bradley said. "It's just nice knowing that he has the group together and their sole purpose is to come around and show all of us that they care."
This sentiment echoes how Sinise wants people to feel by the time they leave a concert. If someone leaves the concert feeling valued and better than when they got there, then his mission is accomplished, he said.
Sinise said the Lt. Dan Band does not intend on slowing down with performances. As long as there are those in uniform serving the country, he will keep playing.
"It's something I plan to do, and I want to make sure that people know that they are appreciated - that's the main goal," said Sinise. "If I can show up and just say thanks and let people know that it's important to me that they feel appreciated for defending our country and make sure they feel that they're not forgotten for what they're doing for our country, that's the most important part to me."
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This work, Sinise, Lt. Dan Band pay tribute to service members, by SrA Zachary Perras, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.