Local Military News

Events raise money for second annual Lt. Dan Weekend

In this Beaufort Gazette file photo, Gary Sinise entertains a crowd gathered near the stage at the start of the 2010 Shrimp Festival and Lt. Dan Weekend at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort.
In this Beaufort Gazette file photo, Gary Sinise entertains a crowd gathered near the stage at the start of the 2010 Shrimp Festival and Lt. Dan Weekend at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort. Staff photo

Fundraising continues for a weekend to honor wounded heroes at the Independence Fund's second annual Lt. Dan Weekend.

The event planned for Sept. 14-18 in Beaufort gives veterans who were severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan a chance to feel independent and let loose during the four-day weekend.

Upcoming efforts to help raise $300,000 to fund the weekend include a tennis tournament, bike run and fishing tournament. The Spring Lake Tennis Tournament begins today on Hilton Head Island, the Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club's Wounded Warrior Run is Saturday at AMVETS Post 70 in Port Royal and the King Mackerel Fishing Tournament is July 9 in Port Royal.

"Imagine ... the amount of healing it could bring to so many families who have been destroyed by these wars," said Steve Danyluk, founder of the Independence Fund, a volunteer-driven nonprofit group.

Last year, 100 wounded veterans and their caregivers discovered new freedoms and bonds of friendship during their stay, which coincided with the Beaufort Shrimp Festival. Hundreds of Beaufort residents and military veterans attended a concert by Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Sinise and his band will play again this year on Sept. 16 at the park.

Sinise, known for his support of troops and wounded veterans, earned the nickname "Lt. Dan" from his Oscar-nominated performance as Lt. Dan Taylor, a bitter Vietnam vet and double-amputee in the 1994 movie "Forrest Gump," which was partially filmed in Beaufort. Sinise will be the grand marshal of Beaufort's Tricentennial Parade on Sept. 17.

Sgt. Maj. Jesse Acosta, a participant in the inaugural Lt. Dan event, said the weekend brings so much to veterans and their caregivers.

"We want to show ... these guys may be down, but they are not out," said Acosta, an Independence Fund board member who was blinded in a mortar attack in Iraq. "They may be missing limbs, etc., but they don't quit."

There are other local efforts going on to make sure Lt. Dan Weekend 2 goes off without a hitch. Two local cafes will donate a portion of money raised from daily in-store purchases to the Independence Fund -- Berry Island Cafe on Lady's Island on Wednesday and Blackstone's Cafe in Beaufort on June 29.

Accommodations have been arranged for the visiting veterans at the Institute at Palm Key, where they will receive "emotional detox unlike anything they can get any place else," said Dr. Rich Jadick, an Independence Fund board member who is on active duty and has treated many wounded troops on and off the battlefield. "The long-term benefits we both feel will be extraordinary."

Other Lt. Dan Weekend 2 events include:

  • Sept. 15: Conflict Zone art exhibit at Beaufort City Hall
  • Sept. 16: Wounded veterans speak to students at area schools
  • Sept. 16: Lt. Dan Golf Classic on Parris Island
  • Sept. 17: 5K Run on Bay and Newcastle streets
  • Sept. 17: Bike ride at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
  • The Independence Fund was founded in 2007 by Danyluk, a Marine Corps reservist who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. Danyluk and volunteers have raised more than $1.25 million for veterans who have been severely wounded. The fund has helped severely wounded veterans in a variety of ways, including purchasing $25,000 iBOT wheelchairs and specialized bicycles to help them pursue their independence.

    Details: www.independencefund.org, www.LDW2.com

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