Playing wounded soldier on screen inspired actor Gary Sinise to help war veterans
It’s been 19 years since Forrest Gump took home the Academy Award for best picture, but actor Gary Sinise still remains influenced by his character, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, who loses both his legs in the Vietnam War during the film.
Sinise made an effort to get involved with the military community after his role in the 1994 film. He started the Gary Sinise Foundation to honor veterans, first responders and their families.
Earlier this month, Sinise teamed up with American Airlines and Disney in order to provide 50 wounded veterans with an all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland and the Paramount Pictures studio in California.
The Gary Sinise foundation teamed up with American Airlines, Disney and others to help with arrangements for the 4-day trip. The service members — each could bring a guest — got a red-carpet welcome at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Anaheim. Celebrities, including Tim Allen, greeted them in Hollywood. Tom Hanks, who played Forrest Gump, introduced a showing of the movie.
“Getting out of the hospital is part of their recovery. Seeing them have a good time means a lot to me,” said Sinise.
Sinise, who has taken US Armed Service members on trips to Las Vegas, said he has long wanted to sponsor an event in California, where he lives.
“After the injuries and all that, it feels like you can’t go out in the world anymore,” said Staff Sgt Michael Irish, one of the servicemen: And now with Gary and his organisation helping us ... to have fun and be yourself, that’s very important to all of us.”
The number of wounded servicemen and women treated to the trip to Southern California
A highlight was the evening flag retreat in Disneyland’s Town Square, when the American flag is lowered. With signs about saying this was a special military tribute, a bigger crowd than usual showed up. Some women dabbed eyes as patriotic songs played.
After the 20-minute ceremony, visitors cheered the honored guests, many using wheelchairs and canes, as they filed into the Great Moments with Mr Lincoln theatre. Inside, Sinise greeted the service members. He choked up a bit as he looked out. “I’m having a ball,” he said. “God bless you.”