10 Crazy Facts You Don’t Know About Gary Sinise

(Instagram/garysiniseofficial)

Gary Sinise. Actor, philanthropist, detective (ok, so technically that was also acting, but he was REALLY good). Most of us know Sinise from Forrest Gump, where he played a colorful Vietnam veteran, or from his role as Detective Mac Taylor on CSI: NY. Even if you’ve seen him in dozens of movies and TV shows, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about this Hollywood humanitarian. To fill in the gaps, we’ve done a crazy facts deep dive into the incredible life of Gary Sinise.

He didn’t always love acting

In high school, Sinise focused more on music and sports than on school itself. The Highland Park High School drama teacher suggested that the unenthusiastic student audition for a part in his school’s West Side Story production, though Sinise had never acted before. He wasn’t all that interested, but Sinise figured that he had nothing to lose. He auditioned and landed a role in his very first show.

“I fell in love with theater at that moment,” Sinise told The Patch. “Once I did that, all I wanted to do was plays.”

Gary Sinise Facts
(Wikimedia Commons)

Gary Sinise co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago

Now one of Chicago’s most famous theaters, Sinise founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company a few years after he graduated from high school. Sinise and his former classmate Jeff Perry first started the company in a suburban church basement before moving to the city of Chicago in 1980.

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company remains one of Chicago’s most beloved theaters today, and it even helped launch the careers of John Malkovich, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, and many others.

Gary Sinise Steppenwolf
(Instagram/garysiniseofficial)

He co-created the Lt. Dan Band in 2003

Before he loved acting, Gary Sinise loved music. After his immensely successful role as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, Sinise co-created a band and named it after his iconic character with musician Kimo Williams to entertain troops and perform at USO shows. The band has played hundreds of shows over the years, visiting military bases all over the world to raise the spirits of those serving our country.

Sinise explained on The band’s website, “We will continue to support organizations that are working hard for our veterans, our wounded service members, and their families,” he explained. “The band will be playing concerts to raise spirits, funds, and awareness for our nation’s severely wounded warriors, their families and all who serve.”

He played the role of CAPCOM on Epcot’s Mission: SPACE

If you visited Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park between the years of 2003 and 2017, chances you ran into Gary Sinise on your way out of Earth’s atmosphere. For 14 years, Gary Sinise played the part of CAPCOM, explaining your mission and helping you prepare for a mission to Mars.

Though actress Gina Torres replaced Sinise as CAPCOM in 2017, you can still get the full Sinise experience with an older video of Epcot’s Mission: SPACE. The Apollo 13 star explains your mission, your role, and the importance of working as a team. Pay close attention and do your best – few things are more crushing than disappointing Gary Sinise.

Sinise put on a spacesuit and flew in a U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet

In 2011, Sinise visited the Beale Air Force Base in California and completed a demanding day-long training to fly in a U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane. He became one of fewer than 1,000 people in the last 50 years to take the extremely taxing flight, which earned him a spot in what air force members call the “high flyer club.”

Sinise documented his training as well as the expedition itself in his documentary “High Flight,” which also discussed the ins and outs of the air force base and flight program.

The rosary dog tags worn by Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump were real

Sinise’s brother in law, Jack Treese, was a combat medic in Vietnam. He figured that any help he could get would be beneficial, so even though he wasn’t Catholic, he made his own rosary beads to hold his dog tag.

While on the set of Forrest Gump, Sinise was given a fake set of dog tags by the film’s costume designer. Rather than use the imitation dog tags, Sinise figured it’d be more meaningful to use the real ones – so he swapped them out.

Gary Sinise Lt. Dan
(Instagram/garysiniseofficial)

Veteran Dale Dye put the Forrest Gump cast through real-life military training

Dale Dye is a marine veteran turned actor, and outside of acting, he offers his expertise and serves as an advisor on movies that involve the military. One such movie was Forrest Gump – prior to filming, Dye put several actors including Gary Sinise through one hell of an orientation to military life.

During the last day of training, Dye made sure the actors would hit a host of roadblocks, leaving them lost in the swamps of South Carolina before being attacked by Dye and his crew. Sinise took the training extremely seriously, which often led Dye to push him harder than the other actors. To this day, Gary Sinise and Dale Dye remain friends.

Gary Sinise Dale Dye
(garysinisefoundation.org)

Sinise has won multiple awards for his efforts to support veterans

Sinise created the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011 to support veterans and their families. The actor is extremely active in the world of military and veteran charities and gives his time and money generously to support our nation’s heroes. In response to his efforts, he has been recognized by multiple organizations and honored accordingly.

Some of his honors include the USO Patriot Award in 2011, the Spirit of Hope Award in 2012, The Noble Award in 2015, The Congressional Medal of Honor Society Patriot Award in 2020, and dozens more. So unbelievably well-deserved.

Gary Sinise chose his role in Apollo 13

After securing Tom Hanks to play the role of Jim Lovell, director Ron Howard invited Gary Sinise to choose his role. Sinise chose to play Ken Mattingly, an astronaut taken off of the Apollo 13 mission just days before launch due to exposure to the measles.

The actor explained how he chose his role in the most Sinise way possible. According to IMDB, Sinise explained, “When I looked at it, I said, ‘I want to play that guy.’ Without him, they won’t get back.”

On-screen and off, Gary Sinise is the perpetual helper. Mr. Rogers would have been so proud.

An offhand joke made by Lt. Dan came to fruition

In a scene in Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan jokingly (sort of) states that if Forrest ever became a shrimp boat captain, he would become an astronaut. Well, Forrest got his Shrimp boat, “Jenny.” A year later, Sinise went on to star in Apollo 13 as astronaut Ken Mattingly (with whom he shares a birthday).

It’s good to know that even in character, Gary Sinise is honest and true to his word. It’s extremely fortunate that Lieutenant Dan said “astronaut,” and not “clown with a thirst for blood” or “retired.”

These crazy facts are a part of our dad trivia series, where we drop some pop-culture science you can impress your dad pals with at the next BBQ.

Check out our previous edition where we featured crazy Facts You Don’t Know About Star Wars.

Gary Sinise Foundation Steps up To Help the Grieving Family of a Vietnam Veteran

Gary Sinise Foundation Helps Pay Grieving Family's Bills
(garysinisefoundation.org)

Actor turned philanthropist extraordinaire Gary Sinise has been helping veterans and their families for nearly a decade, since founding The Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011. Sinise’s foundation has provided adapted homes to wounded veterans, served over 400,000 meals to defenders across the country, and even taken over 1,750 children of fallen soldiers to Disney World. Sinise has been recognized for his impact, receiving a Patriot Award among other national honors. And COVID-19 didn’t stop Sinise and his foundation from doing what they do.

One of the most amazing things about Sinise’s work is that his foundation takes the time to assist many individuals and families in need as soon as the need arises. Over the summer, a Vietnam veteran named Henry Cordero passed away. The loss of a family member is devastating enough, but Cordero’s daughter Jennifer Ruelas found herself facing a mountain of her father’s outstanding medical bills and various other expenses.

With nobody else in her family able to help, Ruelas was solely responsible for dealing with the thousands of dollars of debt. While she made enough to cover her own cost of living, Ruelas had no way to add a pile of debt to her own expenses. On top of the heartbreak of losing her father, Ruelas now had to face the strain of paying back bills that weren’t hers with money she didn’t have.

Prior to her father’s death, Ruelas had already taken a financial hit after becoming his caregiver in 2018 when he was diagnosed with dementia.

According to the Gary Sinise Foundation’s article, Ruelas had told her boss, “My father is my life. He is my best friend, so when he is sick, I am going to leave. So if you guys can’t accept that, then I can’t work here.”

Cordero had been incredibly generous throughout his life, helping family members purchase their own homes and volunteering with communities in need. Ruelas wanted to help her dad as he helped her throughout her life and did the best she could with the resources she had. After her dad’s passing, Ruelas and her husband worked to try to pay his remaining bills, but even their combined incomes barely made a dent.

Ruelas contacted the Gary Sinise Foundation after a friend mentioned that they may be able to help. Finally, Ruelas got some desperately-needed relief – the foundation’s H.O.P.E. initiative paid Cordero’s remaining caregiving fees as well as his cremation costs. With a large chunk of debt no longer weighing on her, Ruelas was able to breathe a bit easier – all thanks to Gary Sinise’s life-changing foundation.

Gary Sinise Has Become Even More Awesome in the COVID-19 Era

Gary Sinise Helps Nation's Heroes
(Youtube/GarySiniseFoundation)

There’s a lot going on in the world right now that, for the sake of keeping this PG, we’ll call “garbage adjacent.” Instead of talking about any of that (though the state of the world seems to weasel its way into even the most unrelated conversations), we’re going to take some time to focus on one person who has proven time and again that he is about as wholesome as a person can get. The man of the hour is none other than talented actor and unrelenting philanthropist, Gary Sinise.

Though Sinise is known for playing on-screen heroes like Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump, off-screen, Sinise is the hero’s hero. Sinise has put an enormous amount of time, money, and effort, into making sure the people (and the animals) who keep our country running are supported. The Gary Sinise Foundation, founded by the big-hearted actor in 2010, aims to “honor our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.” Even the Congressional Medal of Honor Society recognized Sinise’s efforts and honored him with a Patriot Award.

Now, with all of the chaos of today’s world, Sinise is responding in the only way he seems to know how – by doing more good. Recently, the Gary Sinise Foundation made a game-changing donation to a Boston nonprofit, allowing them to install 10 industrial washing machines and 32 brand new drying cabinets in local firehouses. The $380,000 donation will allow firefighters to clean their uniforms properly, both protecting them from burns and reducing their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. Before the foundation’s donation, many Boston firefighters had to send their uniforms to be cleaned professionally, meaning that they often had to wear the same dirty uniform multiple times or borrow ill-fitting spares. Thanks to Sinise, this no longer has to be the case – uniforms can be cleaned on-site in a matter of hours.

Gary Sinise is on such a roll with helping firefighters, one might even say that he himself is “on fire” (maybe don’t say that). Sinise recently helped out Orlando firefighters as a part of his foundation’s national COVID relief campaign, Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service. The “Serving Heroes” event was one of over 307 such events in under six months, delivering meals as a way of giving back to first responders. Between April 1 and mid-August, the campaign provided 55,401 meals to first responders, healthcare workers, veterans, and other essential workers who have needed extra support. The relief campaign has also donated over 5,675 pieces of PPE, assisted over 61 first responder departments nationwide, and provided services in 27 states.

Gary Sinise Impact COVID
(garysinisefoundation.org)

The foundation’s website explains, “During this public health crisis, Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service will be the gateway for providing grants to first responders in need of personal protective equipment when answering COVID-19 service calls. Financial assistance is also available to healthcare professionals, service members, veterans, first responders, and their families who have been impacted by the novel coronavirus.”

To recognize Sinise for his efforts, the Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) will be presenting the actor-turned-philanthropist with the Humanitarian Award. LMGI Awards Co-Chair Lori Balton told Reel Chicago, “The LMGI proudly salutes Gary Sinise. We are humbled to help shine a light on the impact he and his foundation make on our military, veterans and first responder communities that they serve. In the turmoil of today’s world, those men and women who make such great sacrifices deserve our honor and are too often forgotten.”

We don’t have any awards to give, but we see you Mr. Sinise, and we appreciate everything you do to make the world a better place.

Actor Gary Sinise Recognized With Patriot Award for Supporting Veterans

Gary Sinise honored with Patriot Award
(Facebook/AFN)

We’ve written in the past about the incredible devotion actor Gary Sinise has when it comes to supporting our country’s veterans. From visits to the VA to taking thousands of military families on a dream vacation, he’s the definition of a class act.

Now Sinise is once again being recognized for his years of work with veterans, their families, and organizations supporting them. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society recently awarded Sinise in honor of his significant contributions over the past decade-plus.

Even before he established the Gary Sinise Foundation back in 2010, the actor, best known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump, has time and again given his time and money to help those who bravely served our country as well as their families.

The Patriot Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s highest honor, recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the American military services, something now universally synonymous with Sinise and his work. The ceremony, held on Monday at the Reagan Library in Semi Valley, California, sought to recognize the work of Sinise and many others who continually give of themselves.

Many veterans, celebrities and fellow supporters shared positive reactions to the news, with some saying it was long overdue.

However, Sinise has long maintained that focus should always be on the veterans and families, encouraging individuals to “Look within your own neighborhood, your town, your state.” In an interview with TIME back in 2019, the actor laid out the importance of localized efforts, saying you don’t need to be a celebrity to make a difference.

“I know that not everybody can get on an airplane and go over to a hospital in Germany or travel to war zones or do all the things that I’m doing,” he said. “[But] if everybody in every neighborhood, in every community, in every city, in every town and in every state took a little bit of responsibility to reach out to the military families and say, ‘What do you need? What can I do to help you?’, the problems that veterans have [would be] minimized.”

After decades spent fighting for military families, it’s a quote on his foundation website that sums up his feelings best:

“While we can never do enough for our defenders and their loved ones, we can always do a little more.”

Gary Sinise Took Over 1,750 Children of Fallen Soldiers to Disney World

Gary Sinise at Airport with kids taking off for Disneyland
(LA Airport Police)

Actor Gary Sinise is likely best known for his big-screen roles such as Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump, or small screen stints on CSI:NY, but it’s what he does off-screen that has many calling him a true hero.

A longtime supporter of American armed forces and military veterans, Sinise has used his talents and celebrity to help countless military and emergency service personnel and their families, especially following the events of 9/11.

In 2010, the actor founded the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to “honor our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.” Now entering its 10th year, the foundation raises over $30 million annually which directly goes to benefit vets and their loved ones. 

Take for example Sinise’s work with Gold Star Families — those who have lost a family member in service — and his yearly Snowball Express program. For the past three years, the foundation has hosted these five-day experiences for children of fallen soldiers and their surviving parent or caregiver. Last year it was a trip to Disneyland. Not for just a few kids, which still would be admirable. No, Sinise took over 1700 Gold Star family members on the trip of a lifetime. He, his foundation, and around 1,0000 American Airlines team members who volunteered their time, ensured everyone would make it to the event.

“You cannot underestimate the power of bringing all these kids together in a happy environment because we’re trying to bring joy to them right before the holidays, which is a difficult time for a child who’s lost a parent,” Sinise shared for an interview in The Hollywood Reporter.  “So bringing all these kids together at the happiest place on earth was very, very special.”

While the trips are a great way to provide a little joy around the holidays, Sinise’s foundation also provides services such as counseling and group activities that help focus on the healing side of things. “It’s heartwarming because it makes you feel good to see the kids laughing and having a fun time, but it’s also heartbreaking because you know why they’re there.”

Earlier this year, friends, celebrities and veterans impacted by his work, honored Sinise in a tribute video that had the actor on an emotional rollercoaster as he watched. Actors, directors, and industry peers joined military heavyweights like Gen. Colin Powell who sent messages of thanks and gratitude. “Thank you for all the things you have done for our men and women who have served our nation,” Powell remarks in the clip. “Not only what you’ve done for them but for their children, what you’ve done for their families, what you’ve done to help them rebuild their lives.”

While we’re not all famous celebrities with a Rolodex of famous friends, Sinise and his foundation stress the importance just once small act can make. The foundation encourages everyone to share a comment or video expressing their thanks to someone in their own lives who shows kindness and dedication to others using the hashtag #GratefulLkeGary.

Hats off to Sinise and all the other celebrities who use their fame to raise awareness and donations for such important causes.