by KATHY MEGYERI
Most Americans know Gary Sinise not as an author but for his onscreen roles; among them: his Emmy-winning portrayal of George Wallace and as the NASA astronaut, Ken Mattingly, who missed the flight of Apollo 13 due to exposure to German Measles.
Perhaps his most memorable achievement is as the iconic Lieutenant Dan, the troubled, legless Vietnam Vet in Forrest Gump.
The role garnered Sinise an Oscar nod for his performance and helped connect him to veterans, laying the foundation for what would become his high-profile support of military and veteran causes.
His New York Times Bestseller is about what Sinise considers to be his ultimate life’s mission: to see that those who defend our country and its freedoms are never forgotten.
He started his charity, the Gary Sinise Foundation, in 2011.
Soon after, the foundation, which raised $35 million last year, began quietly building specially constructed houses embedded with smart home technology. Severely disabled veterans are given mortgage-free homes, each one customized to accommodate the challenges of the individual and to help ease the burdens of the caregivers.
And that’s just the start of the many fine accomplishments Sinise has achieved.
Grateful American was not easy to write as the actor isn’t one to blow his own horn, and for years he resisted the pleas from his agents and managers to write his memoirs and chronicle his successes.
A truly humble man, Sinise says he’s famous for “merely playing a part in a movie,” but says he changed his mind about writing the book because he decided he wanted to emphasize his “blessing and gratitude.”
His stated goal with the book was, “I hope readers overcome obstacles, embrace gratitude and engage in service above self.”
For years, Sinise has channeled his gratitude to fight for first responders, wounded veterans, U.S. troops, and their families.
He plays bass guitar with his own group, the Lt. Dan Band, and performs at military bases and in war zones, during USO tours, and at benefit concerts throughout the U.S.
Recently, while standing at a Walmart book counter in Pennsylvania, an elderly gentleman standing behind me said, “I recommend the Sinise book because he’s a good Christian man
who cares about his country.”
I asked him why he said that, and the gentleman responded that Sinise wrote about his actress-wife Moira Harris who struggled with alcoholism “just as my wife did, and together they found faith in their church and so did we.”
That recommendation meant more to me than any Google book review or celebrity endorsement.