My guest on today’s podcast is Gary Sinise – a very talented and very successful actor, who has dedicated his life to not only remembering the events of 9/11, but to helping countless wounded veterans who came back from the wars that followed.
I wanted to talk to Gary today for two reasons. First of all, and somewhat selfishly, I’ve always considered him to be my Professional Big Brother. Ever since Dirty Jobs became a thing, I’ve tried to leverage my role on that show into a foundation that might do some good in the real world. Well, Gary did the same thing with his role in Forrest Gump, to a degree I’ll never be able to match. I’ve always I wanted to talk to him about how he balanced his career with his foundation, and his celebrity with his philanthropy. Mostly though, I wanted to talk to him today about the hardest 9/11, since 9/11.
Speaking only for myself, if you had you told me ten years ago, or five years ago, or even five weeks ago, that America would leave Afghanistan in the fashion we just did, or that the Taliban would be back in power today, I’d have said you were hallucinating. But we did, and they are, and that makes remembering this anniversary even more challenging, more frustrating, and more painful than ever before. Because now, twenty years after the attacks that started the war we just concluded, and in the wake of thirteen more heartbreaking fatalities just a few weeks ago, a lot of Americans are asking themselves the same question – was it worth it?
I don’t have an answer to that question, but shortly after the withdrawal began, I put the same question to Travis Mills, a former staff Sergeant who made it back alive, but left his arms and legs in Afghanistan. If you haven’t listened to our conversation, you should, because listening to Travis talk is guaranteed to make you feel better. Because Travis Mills doesn’t possess an ounce of regret or self-pity. To this day, he still loves this country, and is committed to doing all he can to serve it. In fact, he’s dedicated his life to helping other wounded vets get their lives back, and just listening to him talk, is a reminder what America is, when we’re at our best. Well, the same is true of Gary Sinise.
For nearly 40 years, Gary has advocated on behalf of America’s service members. But it wasn’t until 9/11, that his mission really came into focus. Gary formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in 2003, and began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Along the way, he served as the national spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. He’s raised money for the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, and the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance in NYC. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Group for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Community Council for Hope for the Warriors, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Then, in 2011, he established the Gary Sinise Foundation, and began the never-ending quest to serve and honor America’s veterans, first responders, and Gold Star families.
What he’s done since is nothing short of remarkable – including the construction of more than seventy custom homes for wounded vets like Travis. In recognition of his humanitarian work, Gary has earned many distinguished honors, which I promised him I wouldn’t dwell on. So I’ll just say this – I know of no other actor who has leveraged his celebrity the way Gary has, or put his money where his mouth is, time and time again, or donated more of his time to a cause he holds dear. I wanted you to hear what he has to say about this date – a date we must never forget, no matter how hard it is to remember.
This is not a political conversation, or a critique of any administration, past or present. It’s just an honest chat with a Grateful American on a very difficult day, about the men and women he’s committed to serving. I hope you enjoy it.
P.S. If you want to skip over the part you just read, the conversation starts about six minutes in.
Episode 217: OCCASIONALLY – A Chat with Gary Sinise on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11