MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - When the lights dimmed in the buzzing Hangar 103, the crowd cheered as Gary Sinise, an actor, Academy Award nominee and bass guitarist for the Lt. Dan Band, stepped on stage to perform for troops on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Feb. 22.
The crowd’s enthusiasm was evident as they danced, sang along and clapped throughout the night. Sinise and his band performed 26 hits and classics including “Life is a Highway,” “Rolling in the Deep” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” which is a part of the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack. Sinise played the role of Army Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film, which was the inspiration for the band’s name.
Sinise, an avid supporter of service members, has toured military installations with the United Service Organizations since 2004. He began playing the bass guitar in seventh grade, and started a theater company in Chicago. He focused on building that and his acting career. Sinise said earning his living as an actor affords him the chance to make a difference through music.
“With what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, and our troops deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq, I just thought there was something I could do,” Sinise said. “I could entertain the troops. This band is for our military members. I don’t make my living at it; I make my living as an actor. Most of the shows are for troops, military charities, or for building houses for very badly wounded service members.”
The Lt. Dan Band and Building for America’s Bravest are projects of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which is the actor’s overall movement through which he supports the military. His dedication stems from his own family’s service to the country, and a simple desire to ensure service members aren’t abandoned in their times of need.
“Our troops are working hard,” Sinise said. “There are Marines that have been deployed over and over, and when they leave their families, those families go through a lot. So, when someone like me can perform and say, ‘Thank you, I want you to feel better,’ I think that can make a difference, and I can see the difference.”
Lance Cpl. Raion Charles, a saxophone musician with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and native of Elizabeth, N.J., attended the show with other band members from his shop as a work function and was afforded a surprise opportunity to be on stage.
“I love music, being a musician myself, and their show had a good vibe and was an excellent performance,” Charles said. “I made eye contact with one of the singers as they were asking the audience who wanted to come up. I tried to get someone else to go, but she gave me a look like, ‘No, you’re getting up here.’ I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but she sang ‘Natural Woman’ to me and I enjoyed it.”
Charles said he thought it was “awesome” that Gary Sinise visited MCB Hawaii to show his support for service members and the military community.
“I definitely respect him for being here and shaking hands with the troops and asking us how everyone is doing,” Charles said. “The speech he gave after the show was very moving and I felt more motivated after hearing it. It was worth it to go to the performance, and I’m looking forward to the next time they come to play.”
Sinise said he wants military members to know how grateful he and others are for their sacrifice to our country.
“Thank you for serving,” Sinise said to the crowd. “We care about you and just want you to know that you are appreciated.”
As Sinise spoke to the audience, he asked if they could feel his support. The rambunctious applause and cheers which followed echoed through the hangar, reaffirming the positive response he had set out to achieve by playing for those who give of themselves.