By Tom BudzynaJuly 3, 2008
Brunssum, Netherlands - "It's a different kind of gig," says Danny Gottlieb, one of the world's most popular jazz drummers and part of Gary Sinise's 'Lt. Dan Band' who dazzled an international military community audience here in a first class performance July 2.
Sinise, star of the television show 'CSI: NY' and the infamous Lieutenant Dan in the movie 'Forest Gump' is leading the band's fourth European tour in what will total more than 65 concerts since the band formed four years ago. The band has already completed two U.S. tours and many other concerts on military bases.
"It's one of the most rewarding things I do. I just love coming out to visit the troops and their families," says Sinise. Gottlieb and his wife, Beth, both travel and perform with the band and were involved in one of its' first concerts to an audience of wounded warriors. "Gary asked us to be part of that special concert," says Gottlieb, "and it changed us forever. We've been part of the band ever since."
The July 2 performance lasted over two hours and included more than 25 songs. An audience of all ages and many nations rocked under a huge festival tent while it poured rain outside. Soldiers assigned to the Morale Welfare Branch (MWB) of the NATO Joint Force Command Brunssum headquarters pitched in to provide refreshments and set up the concert venue.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David O. Andino-Aquino, the MWB Chief, said, "Many moving parts came together to pull off what was one of the biggest events ever in our tri-border military community. The event was orchestrated for the tri-border community by the Joint Force Command Brunssum Morale Welfare Branch in association with Armed Forces Entertainment and the USO. Over 700 people came out to enjoy the show despite the pouring rain. The crowd joined in, the performance was superb and all the hard work paid-off."
Thousands of U.S. Department of Defense personnel are assigned to the Benelux region. Adding in the presence of personnel supporting the NATO Alliance, the Lt. Dan Band was able to entertain a truly joint military community during stops in Belgium and the Netherlands before heading into Germany.
Behind the top billing and celebrity of Gary Sinise, the Lt. Dan Band is a team of more than a dozen top rate musicians. As the concert begins, children are encouraged to sit up front, which instantly makes the concert a military family affair. Band members venture into the audience for volunteers, adults and children alike, who then become part of the show on stage.
Like a good lieutenant, Sinise pushes his band members into the spotlight and humbly admits, "and I'm the bass player," in a way that subordinates himself to the band. While band members will point at Sinise as the star, his down-to-earth nature conveys that the concert is an extraordinarily sincere and special event and that the Lt. Dan Band is all about supporting the troops and their families.
Sinise's philanthropy goes beyond the band. It extends to Operation Iraqi Children (www.operationiraqichildren.org), a program that enables Americans to send school supplies and other necessities to Iraqi children. The charity has expanded since its beginning four years ago to include children in Afghanistan. U.S. service members deployed to these regions deliver these supplies and Sinise describes them as 'messengers of goodwill'.
Apart from his acting career, the better part of six months out of the year is dedicated to supporting philanthropic efforts and the band, which means Sinise takes advantage of the Internet to stay in touch with his family.
"Text messaging my kids is always a good way to get them,' says Sinise as he mimics the motion of sending a text message from a cell phone, "they're always on that thing so I can always get their attention that way. My wife and family are very supportive of me going out to support the troops. They know that our troops are deployed in harms way away from their families and my wife is grateful that I'm able to come out and perform for them."
The Lt. Dan Band is a sort of military brat band in many respects. Kimo Williams, a guitarist and vocalist in the band, is a Vietnam Veteran. Beth Gottlieb's grandfather served in World War II and her father served with the military in Korea. Sinise, as well as other members of the band, have connections to relatives and family who've served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
"Our freedom has been fought for and paid for by people who serve in the military," Sinise says, "I'm an American who benefits from that, and if I can pitch in a little bit it feels like I'm on the same team."
As the concert ends, Sinise says, "Thanks to each and everyone of you for serving this country and for keeping us safe," then echoes the lyrics of the last song of the concert saying, "There ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep us from gettin' to you."