FORT IRWIN, Calif-Actor Gary Sinese and his band, the Lt. Dan Band, performed for Soldiers and their Family members at Soldier Field on Fort Irwin, Calif., March 12.

Sinese and his band played hits from such classic rock acts as Jimmy Hendrix and the Beatles to more contemporary bands such as Evanescence. His current tour through the National Training Center on Fort Irwin and the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center marks his 41st USO tour.

The actor said he performs for troops as way for him to say thank you. He said is ultimate message to troops and their Families is that people are behind them and support them.

"We need a strong a military, we need our defenders to stay strong," Sinese said. "They're going to be called upon for years. (We're) keeping people strong and letting them know that while in they're in the service we care about them, we appreciate that service. And when they leave the service, we are not going to forget about them."

Sinese is best known for his role as Vietnam Veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in the film Forrest Gump, a role which he believed servicemembers could relate with.

"I liked the story of that character. (Lt. Dan) was very dedicated to military service, he went to the military academy, and he wanted to be a great leader." Sinese said "That was cut short because he got injured and lost his legs and he had to deal with that trauma, and that shock and the anguish of adjusting to that. Ultimately, at the end of that story he's great, he's standing up and he's strong and he survived all that and moved beyond it. I think that's a very positive story line for a lot of folks, Lt. Dan is a redemptive character, and he's a hopeful character. To be associated with him is something that I never shied away from; especially since the military likes him so much, so I thought I'd just go with the name, kind of embrace it."

It was also that popularity with servicemembers that prompted Sinese to call his band the Lt. Dan Band.

"When I started visiting the troops, I think most people just knew my face as Lt. Dan, they didn't know who I was. So when I would go out and visit the troops, in the early days of doing this stuff, wherever I went they were calling me Lt. Dan, so when I decided to take a band with me, I thought well, we'll just call "Gary Sinese and the Lt. Dan Band," and some of them will know who Gary Sinese is and some of them will know Lt. Dan," he said.

Spc. William Allen, of F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, said he didn't even know Gary Sinese was in band; however that didn't stop him from enjoying the concert.

"I like Gary Sinese and Lt. Dan, but I didn't know he played in a band," said the native of Sacramento, Calif. "I thought it was surprisingly good, I was surprised to see how big of a turn out it was."

The Academy Award-nominated actor said he plays for troops whenever he can. Sinese said he plays for as many troops as he can stateside when he is filming a season of CSI:NY. During the off-season however, he plans trips to entertain for troops outside of the continental U.S.

"I think it's really cool, especially since (celebrities) don't really have to do anything anymore, they can just sit at home," Spc. Troy Pacini-Harvey, F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. "I think it is nice they can take time out of their days to put on shows for us and entertain us."

Pacini-Harvey and Allen were two of more than 40 Soldiers from the Regiment that volunteered through the BOSS program to help set up the event. The BOSS volunteers were also tasked to perform stage security for Sinese and his band.

Sinese's involvement with the USO and entertaining for troops started shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He said he felt compelled to do his part, as did many young men and women.

"That was a sad day, I know we have a lot of troops in the service now who joined because of that," Sinese said. "They were spurred into action, wanting to do something for their country. So was I, but I'm on an old guy, I can't join the service but I can go out there and meet and greet them and play some music. When we started deploying troops overseas, I just wanted to do something. So I pitched in and started going out there for the troops overseas doing what I could. I just think it is important that they understand that people are backing them up and appreciate their service."

Sinese said it was an honor to perform for Soldiers especially at Fort Irwin, who were "in the middle of absolutely nowhere."

"If somebody like me who is on television or in the movies can go out there and pat them on the back and let them know that we care about them; then I want to do it. I think that's a way I can pitch in and help out in difficult times," he added.

Before the concert Pacini-Harvey said he enjoyed watching how a real band sets up and gets ready for a concert. He also said he had the opportunity to meet some of the band members.

"I got to meet some of the guys in the band, I got to meet a Vietnam Veteran (Lt. Dan Band guitarist Kimo Williams)," said Pacini-Harvey, a native of Las Vegas. "I was working and I still had fun, it was a great way to spend a Friday night."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16