On Sunday, July 15, Documentary Channel presents the U.S. TV premiere of “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,” a documentary from director Jonathan Flora that follows “CSI: NY” star Gary Sinise and his band — named for his wounded-veteran character Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump” — as they hit the road to benefit U.S. troops, veterans and their families.
“It’s the first time it’s made it to cable television,” Sinise tells Zap2it. “It had a DVD release and an online release, and it’s nice that, a year later, it’s coming back on Documentary Channel. We’re all very happy about it.”
For those new to his off-screen efforts, Sinise says, “This is a film that documents some of the support work that I’ve been doing for the military over the years. Flora spent a good 18 months, upwards of two years on and off, at various events and concerts, things that I was doing to raise money or perform and entertain, visit our troops in the war zone, that kind of thing.
“He asked me if I would mind if he came along. So I invited him to shoot one show, and he was hooked after that and kept wanting to do more. So, I let him come and bring the camera crew. I trusted him to make a nice presentation of what we’re doing out there.
“I think it’s a very touching film, that he made, that shows some of the things I do with my band and without my band, the wonderful people that I interact with throughout the year, through various organizations that are doing great things out there, post-Sept. 11. Many of the people are motivated by what happened on Sept. 11, and try to pick up and move on and do things for the common good.”
The actor is also working through the Gary Sinise Foundation, founded in 2010.
“The foundation is to serve and honor the needs,” Sinise explains, “of military, first responders, Gold Star families. It’s an outgrowth of what I’ve been doing for several years.
“We’re building homes for severely wounded warriors in partnership with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation [inspired by FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who ran, laden with gear, through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to get to the World Trade Center on 9/11]. We’re supporting Gold Star efforts for grieving family members who have lost a loved one in service.”
Sinise also pitches in on efforts to help veterans transition into the civilian work force, and to support those wounded warriors who have permanent disabilities.
After more than a decade of war, a generation of service members has been steadily moving back into the American mainstream. They go to work and to school, raise families, perhaps launch new businesses and invent new products. They’re also starting to go into politics, bringing the perspective of combat veterans to local, state and national office.
“There are a lot of young folks who have learned a lot in the military,” says Sinise. “They may go into politics. That’s a benefit to the country. There are things they see and learn in combat about taking care of one another and looking out for one another, logistics and all that kind of stuff, that can apply to taking care of the country.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s critically important that you served in the military to be a good leader — we certainly have good leaders that didn’t serve in the military –but it can’t hurt.”