• Gary Sinise and Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala., commanding general, pose for a quick photo from inside a Black Hawk helicopter just before flying to Allen Stagefield. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    Gary Sinise and Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala., commanding general, pose for a quick photo from inside a Black Hawk helicopter just before flying to Allen Stagefield. Before his scheduled...

  • Gay Sinise visits with flight students at Allen Stagefield at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    Gay Sinise visits with flight students at Allen Stagefield at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

  • Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala., commanding general, talks with Gary Sinise while leaving Allen Stagefield. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala., commanding general, talks with Gary Sinise while leaving Allen Stagefield. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few...

  • Gary Sinise greets people at Allen Stagefield at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    Gary Sinise greets people at Allen Stagefield at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

  • A family gets a picture made with Gary Sinise at the Soldier Service Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    A family gets a picture made with Gary Sinise at the Soldier Service Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

  • A Soldier and his daughter get a picture with Gary Sinise after waiting for the actor to finish touring an office at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members, July 2, 2012.

    Gary Sinise visits Soldiers, Families at Fort Rucker

    A Soldier and his daughter get a picture with Gary Sinise after waiting for the actor to finish touring an office at Fort Rucker, Ala. Before his scheduled appearance at Freedom Fest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family...

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 5, 2012) -- Before his scheduled appearance at FreedomFest actor Gary Sinise made a few unexpected visits to Soldiers and family members July 2.

The actor, best known for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the movie "Forest Gump," visited the Soldier Service Center, flew simulators at Warrior Hall, watched Helicopter Overwater Survival Training exercises, spoke with air traffic controllers and flight students at Allen Stagefield near Wicksburg and toured the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

"We've got a good show for you and we're just here to say thank you," he said to a group of students. "I've been wanting to come out and see some of the training, visit the folks on base and make sure you know how much we appreciate what you're doing. It's very important and we don't take it for granted."

Sinise has worked with various veterans groups since the 1980s, but in the past 10 years, his involvement has greatly increased as he and the Lt. Dan Band travel around the world to perform at various military bases, encourage deployed Soldiers and visit wounded warriors in the hospital. The band played a free concert at FreedomFest, July 3.

The actor said his involvement with the military has allowed him to do a number of things most people never have a chance to experience, such as flying in an F-16 and U-2 spyplane and landing on an aircraft carrier.

He said he hopes his experiences help the American people, especially those who have no personal connection to the military, understand why they should be grateful for those who serve in the armed forces.

"We should be very proud and we should do everything we can to show our appreciation when we can," he said.

One of the many ways Sinise does this is frequently visiting military hospitals.

"I'm always thinking it's going to slow down and I'm not going to be visiting as many wounded warriors, yet over this 10 year period, it's always constant," he said. "It reminds you how dangerous it is and how many we have out there who are sacrificing each and every day and getting hurt."

He said he wants to continue to remind people about the thousands of Soldiers who are still in harm's way.

"If I can do something to help keep them strong, it's a good feeling," he said.

During his visit to Allen Stagefield July 2, Sinise watched students practice different maneuvers from the tower, then visited with a group of students and asked questions about some of the training he had witnessed.

"What was it like the first time you got in a helicopter?" he asked.

"It was exciting not to actually kill yourself," one student quickly replied.

Another student explained that there was more to flying a helicopter than she imagined before she started training.

"There's so much going on at once," she said. "It's really hard, but it's a rewarding experience for me."

After Sinise spoke with the students, Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, praised the actor's work, calling him "a great American."

"He does this out of the goodness of his heart," he said, adding that Sinise had personally done a lot of work to make the return trip to Fort Rucker a reality.

"I think that says a lot about him as an American, as a man, as a friend and about you as our community," Crutchfield said. "I don't think he would come back if he didn't want to.

The general said Fort Rucker was lucky to have Sinise and he was thankful for what the actor did for the Soldiers.

"I'm just grateful to have a friend like Gary Sinise come down here," he said.

Page last updated Mon July 9th, 2012 at 08:02