Actors play numerous roles throughout their careers, but some parts resonate more than others. For Gary Sinise, it was the character of Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump that made a lasting impact. In the 1994 film, Lt. Dan loses both of his legs during the Vietnam War, but regains his will to live again with Forrest's help. Since 2011, Sinise has been helping veterans, first responders, and their families with the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Sinise reflects on how the role of Lieutenant Dan changed his life in a short video. “I remember walking into the hospitals the first time, meeting service members who had been blown up, missing their legs, just like Lt. Dan. They just wanted to talk about the movie and I realized, okay, now that's a way that I can communicate with our service members,” he explains. “They want to talk about the positive story of Lt. Dan. In the end what happens to him? He's standing up again. He's moving on. He's sober, he's married, and he's put his war years behind him.” In the film, Lt. Dan thought it was his destiny to die in war like his relatives before him. However, through Forrest's actions, he lived on and found a new life afterward.
After the tragic events of September 1, 2001, Sinise began supporting first responders and veterans, and getting involved with numerous initiatives. He eventually formed his own foundation to continue to support defenders and their families through different programs. “You know, when Lt. Dan talks about his destiny, maybe there is a little bit of destiny in the fact that I would play that character and then that character would become so much a part of the mission in my life of supporting our wounded,” Sinise says. “And that's what we work every single day to do at the Gary Sinise Foundation for the men and women who serve our country, to try to help them with their journey.”
You can watch the inspirational video below, and learn more about Sinise's foundation through its website.
Actor Gary Sinise explains how the role of Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump changed his life in this short video.