Photo by Jon Endow

Gary Sinise brings military respect to Hollywood

Hollywood Boulevard was teeming with energy as the tented areas for special guests filled with the friends, family and co-workers of the next recipient of a star embedded on the world famous Walk of Fame. Red carpet and a ceremonial cover concealed a star in front of a stage that faced an array of cameras and reporters. Behind the stage was an unusual presence of first responders, an honor guard, servicemembers and American Legion members who have a long history with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but are far less involved in the current celebrity climate. Hundreds of fans roaring with enthusiasm gathered around the star on April 17 as the guest of honor arrived.

Gary Sinise was awarded the 2,606th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his acting career and support of military servicemembers and veterans.

Military service is deeply rooted in the Sinise family. His dad served in the Navy during the Korean War and two of his uncles served in World War II, and his wife comes from a military family. And while Sinise is not a veteran, his contributions to the veterans community are well regarded.

"Gary has been a major supporter of veterans and veteran organizations through his foundation and the Lieutenant Dan Band that have been sharing their love for veterans and their music for many years," said Hollywood Post 43 Commander Tim Shaner. "We were proud to have been a part of his celebration and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and wish him well in all that he does in the industry and for our veterans."

Sinise has overwhelmingly earned his star as an actor, director and producer. Many know him for his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the Oscar award-winning film "Forrest Gump." He also costarred in "Apollo 13" alongside Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon; directed, produced and costarred in "Of Mice and Men;" and he's been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. This all started in Chicago when, at age 18, he started the Steppenwolf Theater Company.

Sinise is frequently recognized for his endless commitment to supporting and serving America's men and women who defend and protect our nations way of life. His charitable work includes the 2011 launch of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which gives back to America's defenders, as well as his time as the national spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life memorial foundation, which raised a memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2013, to honor America’s three million disabled veterans. He also was involved in raising funds for the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.

Sinise co-founded Operation International Children with author Laura Hillenbrand to give concerned citizens a way to reach out to children in war-stricken countries and support American troops in their efforts to assist them from 2004 to 2013. And in 2008, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor awarded to citizens exemplary deeds for the service of their nation. He was the third actor to ever receive this honor.

The military knows Sinise for his Lieutenant Dan Band Concerts at bases and hospitals around the globe. “We know him for his countless visits to hospitals in the combat zones or here in the United States where he will simply hold the hand of one of our wounded heroes,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command who spoke on behalf of members of the armed forces that appreciate the support Sinise has shown. “To those of us who wear our nations cloth, Gary earned his star rank a long time ago. He’s been our fundraiser, our campaigner, our MC, our supporter, our advocate, and our ally.”

Fellow Walk of Famer Patricia Heaton, the star of "In the Middle" who is best known for her role as Debra Barone in the comedy series "Everybody Loves Raymond," talked about being a fan of Sinise since the 1980s when she admired his Steppenwolf productions.

“He was such an inspiration to me with his acting work. Since then he has become an inspiration to me for what he represents and who he is as a person," Heaton said. “My pal Gary Sinise exemplifies what it means to be a person of selflessness, courage, good cheer, hard work and humility.”

Joe Mantegna, a friend of Sinise, a Walk of Fame inductee and last years recipient of Post 43's Honorary Colonel Award for his dedication to supporting veterans, said, "Many of us grew up in the era of Bob Hope and he was the gold standard for people who support our military. All I can tell you is there is no living person in our industry who does more for our military than Gary Sinise.”

The star to honor Sinise is located in front of a store called The Supply Sergeant that was founded by World War II veteran Jack Arian in 1946. “I’m thrilled to have a star on the Walk of Fame in front of Jacks store,” Sinise said, who acknowledged other veterans in the crowd including a 93-year-old World War II veteran who fought in Gen. George Patton’s Army. “I’m grateful for these heroes and all those who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success I’ve had in the movies and television business to be able to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom."

Sinise had a long list of people to thank who have supported him along the way, none more than his family. He gave heartfelt acknowledgement to his wife, Moira, and their children, including his daughter Sophie who will give birth to his first grandchild next month.

Sinise is recognized by the entertainment industry and the military community as a true American patriot. “I’ve been so blessed over the years, I thank everyone for coming out today. God bless America,” Sinise said.

American Legion Hollywood Post 43 has had a longstanding relationship with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame.

"The post has been a part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame since day one," Shaner said. "Hollywood Post 43 has a long list of celebrity members who have become a part of this great tradition along with other outstanding actors like Gary Sinise."

Past post members with stars on the Walk of Fame include Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney.