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    Posted May 4, 2012 by
    Fort Drum, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

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    Fort Drum community rocks out to Gary Sinise, Lt. Dan Band

    By Michelle Kennedy

    FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The sounds of feet stomping and hands clapping rang through Magrath Sports Complex on Sunday night when Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band rocked out with Fort Drum Soldiers and Family Members of all ages.

    The concert began with a montage of video clips from the Oscar-winning movie, "Forrest Gump," in which Sinise plays Vietnam veteran, Lt. Dan Taylor. Along with his portrayal of Lt. Dan, Sinise is best known for playing Detective Mac Taylor on the television show "CSI: NY."

    The family-friendly concert offered children a chance to sing and dance on stage and a special serenade for an unknowing Soldier in the audience.

    The Lt. Dan Band's troupe of talented musicians and singers played songs in several different genres from rhythm and blues to classic rock to country. Some of the songs they played included "Purple Haze," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Natural Woman" and "God Bless the USA."

    The band tours around the world entertaining service members and their Families.

    Sinise explained he has been an active supporter of veterans' groups since the 1980s. His father served in the Navy in the 1950s, and two of his uncles served during World War II. His nephew is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., while he undergoes Special Forces training.

    "I have veterans in my family and have been involved with that for a long time," Sinise said. "There are Vietnam veterans on my wife's side of the family; we all know what happened with our Vietnam veterans -- they got crapped on when they got home.

    "I have too many personal relationships with Vietnam vets not to remember that," he continued. "I just wanted to do what I can to make sure that doesn't happen again."

    When Sinise played Lt. Dan Taylor, a disabled Vietnam veteran, in "Forrest Gump" in the early 1990s, he said it inspired him to help with disabled veterans' organizations.

    After the 9/11 attacks occurred and the military began deploying troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, Sinise wanted to help the new breed of combat veterans.

    "I wanted to team up and join in," he said. "I started going on USO tours and visiting hospitals."

    In 2004, Sinise began touring with a band.

    "When I started going on USO tours, everybody was calling me 'Lt. Dan' all the time, so I just named the band after it; it's kind of fun," he said. "When we got back … we did a bus tour across the South -- Fort Polk, La., and a bunch of different (military) bases. I loved it.

    "I could see the difference it was making. Giving back to the troops is something I very much believe in; it's important," he continued.

    Sinise began playing musical instruments as a child.

    "It's a lot of fun to be able to play music. I always played as a kid," he said. "As a kid, you always imagine big crowds."

    As his acting career took off and he started a theater company, his love of music was put on hold.

    "I got very busy with acting and my theater company, and I didn't play for a long time," Sinise said.

    Now, he is able to balance his acting and musical passions. He films "CSI: NY" during the week and tours with the band on the weekends.

    "There's a very good reaction in the military and a lot of people have seen us at other bases and different places around the world," Sinise explained. "We're still at it, and so are they. It's a fun way to give back.

    "When you come to a military base, they're training, they have loved ones deployed and there are a lot of Families," Sinise continued. "It's important to try to come out and support those Families, kids and spouses of our service members who are down range. They go through a lot."

    Sgt. Paul Alvarez, 590th Quartermaster Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, brought his Family to the concert.

    "I'm a fan; I watch him on "CSI: NY," he said.

    Alvarez said that although he didn't know that Sinise had a band before his unit started distributing tickets, the actor's dedication to military causes is what drew him to attend.
    "I think it's great," he said.

    Pvt. Mark Castro and Pfc. Taylor McGillivray, who both serve with A Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, helped set up for the concert. Neither of the "Polar Bears" had heard of the Lt. Dan Band before the event, but they said they were pleasantly surprised at the talent of the musicians.

    "I watched 'Forrest Gump' growing up, but I never knew (Sinise) had a band," Castro said. "I was told about the concert in Albany and how they did the fundraisers for wounded Soldiers. That right there really opens your eyes and your ears and that people out there actually support the troops."

    McGillivray agreed.

    "I think it's awesome that he does (these types of events)," he said. "I was talking to the roadies, and they said they go all over the world and the country playing at military installations. It's cool that there are people out there who care and support the troops."

    One of the main purposes Sinise performs with the band is to fund his foundation. He started the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2010, which helps build "smart homes" for severely wounded service members.

    "The foundation is really just an outgrowth of all (my past volunteer service)," he explained. "I created a foundation because I've been involved with so many different military charities over the years. I support that kind of thing. I believe in that.

    "We're building a lot of houses for very badly wounded veterans," Sinise continued. "I'll go in and play concerts -- I did two this weekend -- and we build these 'smart homes.' The technology that goes into them is incredible."

    Sinise joined Soldiers from 4-31 Infantry for breakfast Monday before touring the battalion and making a stop at the USO Fort Drum.

    "It's important that you know you're appreciated," he told the Soldiers. "You don't get enough pats on the back."

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