The Gary Sinise Foundation
Serving Our Nation by Honoring Our Heroes
Freedom and security are two of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed on a nation. They are the cornerstones on which we raise our flag and the pillars of everything we hold dear. However, these privileges come at a cost. They are earned through the sacrifices of our brave military and first responders. This is why it’s our duty to honor these unsung heroes, and give appreciation for everything they have done to make our country great.
For those of us who were born and raised in America, it’s easy to take for granted the things that matter most. After all, most of us have never had to live in fear or experience life without liberty. For generations, these rights have been safeguarded by our courageous men and women in service.
Unfortunately, long after the call of duty is over, these heroes are left to grapple with the life-altering consequences of war. Their physical, emotional and psychological wounds act as daily reminders of the trauma they’ve suffered. As they return to civilian life, the challenges they face are often very difficult. It can be a long and arduous journey, that many are forced to endure alone.
As beneficiaries of their service it is our responsibility to do everything possible to help regain the health and wellbeing of our defenders and to ensure their sacrifices and those of their families are never forgotten —this is why The Gary Sinise Foundation was formed.
For over thirty years, actor, Gary Sinise has stood as an advocate for America’s service members. It began in the early 80’s with his support of Vietnam Veterans groups and the creation of Vets Night. His commitment continued into the 90’s working on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans organization, and through the 2000’s with his dedication to our nation’s active duty defenders, veterans and first responders.
In 2011, to expand upon his individual efforts, the award-winning actor established the Gary Sinise Foundation. Its mission is to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.
“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” says Sinise. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”
One of the most important tasks of the Gary Sinise Foundation is to address the more than 50,000 cases of polytrauma returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To do so the Foundation is building specially-adapted custom smart homes through its Building for America’s Bravest partner program. Each home features automated amenities to ease the daily challenges of America’s severely wounded veterans. By the end of this year, 46 smart homes will be completed or underway. The Foundation has also expanded these efforts by establishing its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence & Supporting Empowerment) program that provides our wounded servicemen and women, their caregivers and families with adapted vehicles, home modifications and mobility devices. Both of these programs are creating a place where these heroes can feel at home, overcome their new challenges and move forward with their lives.
In addition to supporting our heroes on the road to recovery, raising morale and showing gratitude are vital to the Foundation’s goals. As a token of appreciation The Serving Heroes program provides defenders across the country with a little taste of home before and after their deployment. Serving up hearty, classic American meals at major travel hubs across the nation, over 40,000 meals have been enjoyed so far and they are already expanding their efforts to include other venues and additional airports nationwide.
Similarly, for over a decade Sinise has used the power of entertainment to boost spirits with the Lt. Dan Band — coined after Sinise’s beloved character in the blockbuster film, Forrest Gump. Since 2004, Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have toured the globe in support of our troops. The band now performs close to 30 shows a year for military bases, charities and fundraisers to honor and show appreciation to our defenders and their families.
The Foundation also hosts daylong celebrations called the Invincible Spirit Festivals to provide a respite from the rigors of rehabilitation and offer a reminder of hope and positivity during the healing process. These Festivals celebrate the courage not only of these heroes but of their families and caregivers as well. Each event brings a fair-like atmosphere to one of our nation’s military medical hospitals complete with a live Lt. Dan Band concert and a delicious cookout prepared by Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine.
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways The Gary Sinise Foundation is making a difference is by sending a strong signal to our soldiers that what they are doing matters. In 2015, the Foundation launched Soaring Valor with The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. This program brings WWII veterans and their guardians to the museum for a complimentary tour and celebratory meal with their fellow vets. The Program is also dedicated to collecting first-person accounts of the war before the stories are lost forever. So far over 143 oral histories have been collected.
“I’m very appreciative for how this program treats our World War II veterans. Their efforts and sacrifices changed the character of our nation and I would like these men and women to be given the credit they deserve. Thank you for this opportunity and helping me understand and capture the history of what my father went through. Thank you.”
— Son of Soaring Valor WWII participant
In recognition of his humanitarian work, Sinise has earned many distinguished awards including the Presidential Citizens Medal — the second-highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. Many others have followed in his footsteps and have become a part of the Ambassadors Council. You too can join the crusade of support, service and gratitude for all those who protect our freedom and serve our country. Find out more at garysinisefoundation.org