Good deeds are always worth dwelling on and celebrating. Actor Gary Sinise, perhaps best known for his work in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” received the American Spirit Award from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans last month, according to The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune — and it’s no surprise that this recognition continues to circulate and receive attention on social media.
He was one of six award recipients at the event, but Sinise is in a class by himself.
The museum’s website says the award is given to “individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served our country during the World War II years.”
The group honors those who show “courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity” — and the latter part explains why Sinise earned this recognition. (Other past recipients of the honor included Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former AIG CEO Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, The Times-Picayune also reported.)
Over the years, Sinise has received multiple honors for his work supporting the military, including the Presidential Citizen Medal (the second-highest civilian award in the United States) in 2008 from then-President George W. Bush. Last fall, he received the Army’s George Catlett Marshall Medal, the highest honor the branch gives to civilians.
Sinise has put plenty of time and effort into giving back to our troops. In June, the Gary Sinise Foundation built a “smart home” for Marine veteran Major Eric Burkett, a double amputee injured in combat back in 2012. The home for Burkett, his wife, and six children is completely wheelchair accessible.
The building of the home was done through the foundation’s RISE Program (restoring independence, supporting empowerment). As many as 66 such homes will have been completed for injured veterans by the end of August of this year, the foundation’s website reports.
“They’ve [the wounded vets] had a lot of their independence taken away because they can’t do things for themselves,” Sinise said last year of the RISE Program. “And when they’re living in a house that isn’t specifically designed to their needs, there are a lot of problems … We put all kinds of stuff in these houses to allow them to take care of themselves, so that their caregiver, if it’s their wife or their mom or their dad or whoever it is, can have a little more independence themselves.”
This is not the whole story of Sinise’s foundation, though. Its Snowball Express program will bring some 2,000 Gold Star families to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida, this December. Last year, the foundation also opened its Center for Education and Outreach to host “workshops, meetings and orientations with character-building exercises for our injured heroes, first responders, and their families and/or caregivers,” the site noted.
Plus, Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band travel to perform for troops across the country several times a month to show appreciation for the service of our dedicated military. In the past, he’s also participated in USO (United Service Organizations) tours overseas around Christmastime. From December 19 to December 21 last year, he conducted three meet-and-greets on U.S. bases overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the Chicago-born Sinise, supporting the troops is not about recognition. He already has plenty of accolades in Hollywood — including an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and a nomination for an Academy Award. Having enjoyed that level of success in his career, Sinise is setting a strong example of how Hollywood stars can and should act if they want to make a long-standing and positive impact on our society.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.