Actor Gary Sinise: Supporting Post 9/11 Veterans Remains of Tremendous Need
Gary Sinise, award-winning actor and philanthropist, emphasizes the need to support veterans who served after 9/11 and highlights the importance of his foundation's work.
In the aftermath of the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people on American soil in 2001, renowned actor and philanthropist Gary Sinise emphasizes the urgent need to support the veterans who bravely answered the call to serve. Sinise, who established his eponymous foundation in 2011, acknowledges that without the immense support from the public through their generous donations, his mission would not have flourished into a full-time endeavor. The Gary Sinise Foundation aims to provide assistance to veterans who served after the 9/11 attacks, reaching out to individuals all across the nation who are in dire need of support.
According to the USO (United Service Organizations), approximately a quarter of a million individuals served their country in the aftermath of 9/11, encompassing both active duty and reserve forces. However, as time has passed, many of these veterans have retired or are on the verge of retirement, bearing the physical and emotional scars of their battlefield experiences after dedicating 20 years of their lives to service.
Disturbingly, the suicide rate among veterans was 57% higher than that of non-veterans in 2020, as revealed by the VA's (Department of Veterans Affairs) 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Sinise highlights the profound impact that the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in 2021 had on those who had been part of the war. For those who endured multiple deployments, witnessed the loss of comrades, experienced injuries, and underwent the grueling process of recovery, the events in Afghanistan served as a painful reminder of their sacrifices. Sinise describes this as a "real moral injury," emphasizing the struggles and suffering that many veterans endure. He wants them to understand that their service was not in vain, regardless of the outcome.
Reflecting on the 22nd anniversary of the devastating 9/11 attacks, Sinise recounts how it marked a personal turning point in his life, propelling him from a self-focused mindset to one of service. The events that unfolded after September 11 completely transformed his priorities, shifting his attention from his acting career and the entertainment industry towards making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Despite it being almost three decades since his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan, a Vietnam veteran and double amputee, in the critically acclaimed film "Forrest Gump," Sinise never anticipated that he would still be closely associated with the character to this day. However, following September 11, Sinise began visiting hospitals and engaging with wounded servicemembers. To his surprise, they recognized him as Lieutenant Dan, even if they didn't know his real name. This connection opened up conversations about the character, his own life, and the experience of playing a double amputee. Sinise believes that the story of Lieutenant Dan offers a positive narrative of survival and resilience, which he hopes can be a source of inspiration for all wounded veterans. His aspiration is for these individuals to return home, overcome their challenges, and move forward with their lives.
Looking to the future, Sinise expresses his desire for the Gary Sinise Foundation to grow in strength, enabling them to reach a wider audience and provide assistance to as many people as possible in the years to come. His ultimate goal is to establish an organization that can continue its impactful work long after he is gone, ensuring that support for veterans remains a lasting legacy.