On Monday, July 4, between the hot dogs and the fireworks, you can take a trip around the world, hear some rock ‘n’ roll and visit our fighting men and women, without ever leaving your poolside chair.
That’s the day that “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good” premieres online at www.LtDanBandMovie.com.
Filmmaker Jonathan Flora, himself a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, has chronicled the travels of the cover band led by actor Gary Sinise of CBS’ “CSI: NY,” as it tours the world entertaining America’s armed forces and first responders.
“You don’t go to ‘Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good’ and go to a major gun battle or anything like that,” Sinise tells Zap2it. “We visit bases, and we visit troops and families, firefighters, and all kinds of different people.
“I’m inspired by these people all the time, and I know what they’re going through … We should all feel very grateful to have these people serving our country out there.”
In 1997, Sinise met Kimo Williams while working in Chicago on the play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Both musicians, they began to jam, and Williams’ experiences as a Vietnam veteran had an effect on Sinise.
With deep family roots in the military, Sinise had already been involved with American veterans, but his friendship with Williams eventually led to the forming of the Lt. Dan Band in 2003.
It’s named for the Vietnam War veteran and double amputee Sinise played in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” and it was a name given to him by many of the service members he met.
The attacks of 9/11 propelled Sinise to even more service to military members. Determined to support and interact with them, he toured with the USO. In 2004, the Lt. Dan Band hit the USO circuit, visiting troops in active military theaters, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and at bases around the world.
The cover band now averages 30-40 shows a year, with 75 percent of the profits going to the USO and to charities supporting veterans and their families.
On July 4. 2011, coinciding with the online premiere of “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,” Sinise launches the Gary Sinise Foundation to honor and help service members, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.
From July 4th through the 30th, when fans view the film online for $3.99, one dollar out of every four goes to support the Gary Sinise Foundation and its programs.
“This way, anybody anywhere in the world can go on the website and watch it,” says Sinise. “We have people deployed all over the world, service members who might be interested. They can all go online.
“It’s a very interesting experiment here. Hope it works.”
While Sinise hears often from the troops that come to see the band, the movie allowed him to find out how visiting the troops has affected his bandmates.
“I’m always out there,” Sinise says, “doing this kind of thing and visiting troops and going to different places, then I do my television show. My musicians, they play with me, but they also play with other bands. I know this is a special band for them, but to hear how they’ve gotten more committed to the mission I’m taking us on, and how they feel about it, is a positive thing.
“It’s a little different for each of them. The co-founder of the band, Kimo Williams, is a Vietnam veteran himself. One of the motivating forces for me is to make sure that what happened to our Vietnam veterans doesn’t happen to anybody who’s serving our country now.”
And Sinise isn’t done yet, and he’d like other entertainers to join him.
“I’ve been to too many places now,” he says. “I can see that showing up makes a difference.
“I would encourage anybody who’s in the entertainment world to go out and do what you can for our soldiers, our Marines, our sailors and our people that are serving our country out there.”