Gary Sinise talks veterans, Lt. Dan Band performance in Beaufort

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 12, 2012 

  • Fishing clinics, led by O'Neill Williams and Flip Pallot: noon Sept. 13, Palm Key Nature Resort, Ridgeland. Pallot's fly-casting clinic costs $100. www.ldw3.com

  • Third annual Lt. Dan Golf Classic (Scramble): 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14, Sanctuary Golf Course, Cat Island. $100. 843-473-5165. www.ldw3.com

  • Vetpalooza Military Tribute Concert, with Rockie Lynne and opening acts Machine Gun and Outlaw 21: 7 p.m. Sept. 14, Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort. $10; free for military ID card holders. 434-409-0506. www.ldw3.com

  • Lt. Dan Independence Ride and 5K Run: 8 a.m. Sept. 15, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Geiger Boulevard, Beaufort. $35; $20 for active duty; free for wounded veterans. www.active.com/running/beaufort-sc/ldw3-independence-5k-run-and-ride-2012

  • Third annual Independence Fund benefit concert, with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band and opening acts Bounty Hutner and Berry Michael: 7 p.m. Sept. 15, Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort. $20 in advance; $25 day of show. 434-409-0506. www.ldw3.com

Gary Sinise doesn't have a lot of time to talk.

The 58-year-old "CSI: NY" star is in Washington, D.C., and a car is waiting downstairs to whisk him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he will do something that, in recent years, has become nearly as much a part of his life as acting -- visiting and supporting severely wounded veterans.

Between shooting episodes of his highly rated CBS crime drama and performing all across the country with his 13-piece Lt. Dan Band, an ensemble named after the Vietnam veteran and double amputee he portrayed in "Forrest Gump," Sinise has little free time these days.

"I shoot a TV show during the week, so all of the work that I do (with the Lt. Dan Band) has to be done on the weekends, and there are only so many weekends," Sinise said during a phone interview last month. "My entire 2012 was completely booked up about four months ago."

The concerts are not vanity exercises.

Between now and the end of the year, Sinise will be on the road all but three weekends, including a trip Sept. 15 to Beaufort, where he and his band will headline the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend.

The three-day event, which culminates with a performance by Sinise and his band in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, was created by the Beaufort-based Independence Fund to raise money for robotic wheelchairs, therapy and other care for disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The local fundraiser is one of dozens of similar veterans events across the country each year to which Sinise lends his name and donates his time -- a labor of love that recently earned the Chicago native a profile on "60 Minutes."

Sinise said he does not do it for the publicity but admits he does get something out of his work with veterans and organizations, such as The Independence Fund, dedicated to serving them.

"I've met so many people doing this that I am just constantly re-energized," Sinise said. "It's inspiring to see these veterans and their families and to know that what we are doing is making a difference for them."

Sinise said he hopes the band's performance this weekend in Beaufort entertains the 75 severely wounded veterans expected to be in attendance and inspires local residents to do more for them and their families.

"There's only so much that the government can do," Sinise said. "We need to let these families know that what they are going through is appreciated. Whether it still makes the front pages or not, sacrifices continue to be made in defense of all of our freedom ... and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken."

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Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/OnBaseBeaufort.

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