Actor Sinise, thousands rally for injured vets

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 15, 2012 

Actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band perform a benefit concert at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Saturday to raise money for severely wounded veterans as part of the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend.

JAY KARR, STAFF PHOTO

Moments before actor Gary Sinise took the stage Saturday night at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, a montage of his most memorable scenes from the film "Forrest Gump" flickered on a pair of large screens to the delight of more than 3,500 fans who packed the park and cheered.

Concertgoers came from as near as North Street and as far as Wales to see Sinise and his 13-member Lt. Dan Band headline the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend, a three-day event benefiting severely injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that began Thursday.

More than two hours before Sinise took the stage, more than 80 severely wounded veterans from 13 states were led into park by a cadre of local firefighters and paramedics as thousands in attendance stood and applauded.

"It's great that Gary Sinise is here but those veterans are really what this event is all about," Janice Dolen of Beaufort said. "We must always remember them and their families. They make all of this possible."

Sinise and his band took the stage at about 8:35 p.m. and opened with a cover of The Police's "Synchronicity I" to raucous applause from the estimated 3,500 people in attendance.

The concert and other events this weekend were hosted by the Beaufort nonprofit Independence Fund to raise money for robotic wheelchairs, therapy and other care for veterans in attendance and across the country.

Sinise's performance was preceded by a pair of opening acts and the auctioning of a painting by artist Scott LoBaido of New York City who painted an American flag on a large, rectangular canvas while standing on stage. LoBaido has garnered national attention for painting American flags on the rooftops of buildings across the country, including Sgt. White's Restaurant in Beaufort.

After LoBaido finished the painting, an Elvis impersonator calling himself "Captain Woody" stood on stage and played auctioneer, taking bids on the artwork from those in the crowd.

The winning bid was $20,000, a price that brought Captain Woody, who was clad in a red, white and blue jumpsuit, to tears.

Organizers identified the man who brought the painting, which was to be signed by LoBaido and Sinise, as Kyle Johnson.

It was unclear Saturday where Johnson is from.

Others in the crowd were awestruck at how much the painting went for.

"That's great to see and just shows how dedicated people are to helping our veterans," Bert Johnson of Lady's Island said. "I mean, to just drop $20,000 on the spot for a painting is really incredible. Good for him."

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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Volunteers gear up for arrival of vets; police prepare for Beaufort's Lt. Dan Weekend, Sept. 13, 2012

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