Paul Simon is a tough act to follow. Nonethless, actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise will receive this year’s Service to America Leadership Award from the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation for his commitment to raising awareness and support for veterans. Simon was last year’s awardee.
Sinise will receive the award at the June 16 Celebration of Service to America Gala, in Washington.
“Gary Sinise is a talented actor who has brilliantly portrayed unique characters throughout his career,” said NABEF President Marcellus Alexander. “His support for veterans has made a positive impact on America’s service men and woman who sacrifice so much for our country.”
The Celebration of Service to America Awards are sponsored and produced by NABEF with support from Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., Bonneville International Corp., and the NAB.
Sinise co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago, where he worked as artistic director for seven years. In 1994, through his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan, a double-amputee soldier in “Forrest Gump,” he began supporting wounded service members with the Disabled American Veterans. The role earned him both a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, Commander’s Award from the Disabled American Veterans, Best Supporting Actor Award from the National Board of Review and an Academy Award nomination.
He also had starring roles in “Apollo 13,” “Ransom,” and “Snake Eyes.” Most recently, Sinise starred as Detective Mac Taylor on CBS’ “CSI: NY.” He will be starring in the new CBS drama “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” set to premiere in the 2015–2016 season.
Sinise’s advocacy for veterans began in the early 1980s when he created “Vets Night” at the Steppenwolf Theatre. The program, which invites veterans to a free dinner and performance, continues to this day. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Sinise volunteered with United Service Organizations and began visiting troops. In February 2004, he formed the “Lt. Dan Band,” which consists of 12 members and performs covers and has helped raise money for military charities.
Additionally, he co-founded Operation Iraqi Children, which evolved into Operation International Children. The program collected school supplies that were delivered by American troops.
His commitment became fully realized when he officially formed the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011 with the mission to honor defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. One such program is R.I.S.E (Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment), whose flagship initiative is a custom smart home building project for wounded veterans. Other foundation programs include Relief & Resiliency Outreach, Invincible Spirit Festivals, Serving Heroes and Arts & Entertainment Outreach.