LOS ANGELES – When Gary Sinise took on the role of wounded U.S. serviceman Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forest Gump” in 1994, little did he know it would have such a profound impact on the rest of his life, both personally and professionally.
Today, Sinise spends much of his spare time entertaining and raising money for U.S. troops, veterans and their families with his group The Lt. Dan Band. His experiences have been captured in the documentary “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good,” which debuts on the Documentary Channel this Sunday.
“I just felt a call to action after what happened on September 11th. I had been involved with a lot of different veterans’ organizations supporting Vietnam veterans groups and the Disabled American Veterans organization which I got involved with after 'Forrest Gump,' and September 11th just shook me,” Sinise told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I felt a call to action to help our country through a difficult time."
"If the documentary can inspire people, then hopefully it does its job"
- Gary Sinise
"We were deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan our troops were getting hurt. After being involved with veterans over the years and especially Vietnam veterans who came home from war had the door shut in their face, they were treated badly and the thought of that happening to our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan was troubling to me," he said. "When freedom is in jeopardy in America these are the ones called to action and called to serve. When our backs are against the wall they will always be the ones to step forward to help bad things from happening to our country and our citizens.”
Director Jonathan Flora's film documents Sinise’s inspiring journey, following several of the band's performances for our servicemen and women, and honoring the remarkable efforts of first responders, their families and the citizens who support them.
“I’m not in it to be a composer or a recording star. I have a good career as an actor, that is what I do for a living. The band is completely and totally separate, it is part of a spiritual mission to serve the needs of men and women in uniform and people that are serving our country,” Sinise continued. “The band folds into a mission to lift spirits and morale and show support. When I first started USO tours it was just handshaking and pictures, and on the very first tour in Iraq I asked if they would let me bring (my musicians) on tour and entertain. I am an actor, but I didn’t want to go up there and do a monologue. That wouldn’t be entertaining for anyone.”
And while not everyone has Sinise’s public profile, or musical skills for that matter, he said all Americans can and should play an important part in supporting our troops.
“I would encourage people to look to the great military charities. Look within your own community, your own small town. They may need help with grieving families, communities need to reach out to those people and show them their sacrifices are appreciated,” he added. “Giving back can happen at home. Buy groceries or drive a wounded warrior someplace. If the documentary can inspire people, then hopefully it does its job.”
“Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good” premieres on Documentary Channel Sunday, July 15 (8PM ET/PT). Throughout the premiere on-air, watch for a promo code redeemable for an exclusive, free download of the Lt. Dan Band's original song "A Letter Home" at http://documentarychannel.com/ltdanband.
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.