Securing the Legacy of the Greatest Generation – Part Four
In Part Three of this series, Get Out of the Villages!, I talked about Baby Boomers and others stepping up to make a positive difference with America’s kids today as a desperately needed contribution in Repairing America’s Social Fabric. Certainly, that desperate need exists in other aspects of American culture too. With this article, I want to acknowledge an instance of this job getting done through keeping America’s social fabric intact. It’s the exemplary job of role model and true American hero being done by a fellow-Baby Boomer, the leader of the Lieutenant Dan Band, Gary Sinise.
According to Biography.com, Gary Sinese’s occupation is Actor/Director/Producer. Many know him for the starring role he’s played on TV, since 2004, as Detective Mac Taylor on CSI:NY. Without a doubt, though, his greatest fame began in 1994 with his supporting role, as Lt. Dan Taylor, in the movie Forrest Gump. When you read his bio, it’s evident just from the lists of his film roles and TV roles, along with the list of his related awards and nominations, Gary Sinese is having a very prolific and successful career. No doubt, when he has time away from acting/directing/producing, his success affords him the ability to lead a luxurious life of leisure. Apparently, though, Sinise is one of those Baby Boomers who has retained a true other-oriented sense of community, a value instilled in our generation by the GI Generation who raised us. This, too, is evident when you read his bio but I think it’s most evident in the contribution made through the organization that’s the namesake of his character in Forrest Gump … the Lieutenant Dan Band.
The Lieutenant Dan Band grew out of a friendship that developed between Gary Sinese and Kimo Williams when they worked together on a Steppenwolf Theatre production. Their mutual love for music led to their getting together for jam sessions and eventually, to their playing together with other Chicago area musicians over the following few years. This laid the foundation for the Lieutenant Dan Band coming into existence. In 2003, following one of his many trips overseas to visit those serving our country, Sinese asked the USO if they would allow him to take a band with him on a tour. The USO agreed, the band began rehearsing and in February of 2004, The Lieutenant Dan Band hit the road on their first overseas USO tour to Korea, Singapore and Diego Garcia. Since that time, they have played an average of 30-40 shows per year with about 75% of those shows being done for the USO, as well as other charities and benefits.
The Lieutenant Dan Band is now just one of seven programs supported by the Gary Sinese Foundation. I think the following excerpt from a letter Sinese posted on the Lieutenant Dan Band website offers a great summary of what he has in mind with these efforts to keep a significant portion of America’s social fabric intact:
“Personally, I have made it a particular mission to do what I can to draw attention to our military and first responder communities and to make sure they know they are remembered and appreciated. Whether through performing with the band, supporting a military charity or visiting the war zones and hospitals to shake some hands and take some pictures, all of it helps them know that there are people out there who are aware of, and appreciate, their sacrifices, and who understand the importance of keeping our military families strong in difficult times. It is important to remember that these defenders are volunteers. There is no draft. Military service is something that we all have a choice to do or not to do. And I am grateful that there are Americans that have made the choice to serve. Especially in such dangerous and uncertain times. What would we do if no one wanted to defend this great country? So, if you see someone in uniform, just know that taking the time to thank them will mean a lot. They don’t ask much at all. They are just doing what they signed up to do. But that little gesture of gratitude from a stranger will make their day.”
Well said. I won’t attempt to add to that. But, I do hope it will inspire you, when you have the opportunity, to extend the grateful gesture Gary Sinese calls for us to make. And, I hope you’ll find his other-oriented sense of community an inspiration to do likewise in finding a portion of America’s social fabric where you can make a positive difference by keeping it intact or, if needed, by repairing it.