FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (May 14, 2009) - The Fort Leavenworth community celebrated military spouses May 8 at Merritt Lake with an event that culminated in a concert by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.

In addition to the concert, Military Spouse Appreciation Day included the reading of a proclamation, the unveiling of a lapel pin and presentation of certificates to outstanding military spouses.

The USO sponsored concert by the Lt. Dan Band marks the second time Sinise has performed at Fort Leavenworth. In 2007, the band performed at the Frontier Conference Center after he visited the Operation Iraqi Children warehouse in Kansas City, Mo. The organization, which Sinise co-founded in 2004 with author Laura Hillenbrand, collects and distributes school supplies to the children of Iraq.

Sinise said he was interested in music when he was a child and started playing again about 10 years ago. After the Sept. 11 attacks, when Soldiers began deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq, he said he gathered a few musicians together and started going on the road. Sinise said he would continue to play and support the troops as long as they need him.

"It's important for us to realize there are people out there defending this country," Sinise said. "When you consider there are 300 million citizens in the United States and about half of a percentage point actually volunteer to do this dangerous work, it's important that we keep them strong."

Sinise said he thinks there are more dangerous times ahead and the military and their families need to stay strong.

"It's a rewarding feeling to know you can pitch in and help," Sinise said.

When he first started touring, Sinise said a lot of people called him Lt. Dan, the character he played in the movie "Forrest Gump." In the movie, Lt. Dan is a Vietnam veteran who struggles with his life after the war as a double amputee. He named his band after the character that he said a lot of military people seem to have affection for.

"Instead of running away from that, I kind of embraced it," Sinise said. "I think people can relate to that story."

On the USO tours, Sinise said his group has played to the troops overseas and in the states, and they have also played for families and spouses left behind.

"They are struggling through these long deployments, they deserve a good time," Sinise said.

Susan Weathersbee has been a military spouse for 25 years. She said she thinks Fort Leavenworth does a good job of supporting the military spouses. Weathersbee said she knows there have spouse appreciation days at Fort Leavenworth in the past, but she thinks they haven't been close to the magnitude of the one on May 8.

"I think this one is going to be a really good one," Weathersbee said. "I think this is a well deserved day."

Terri Wojtalewicz moved to Leavenworth with her husband for his civilian job as a contractor on post. A month and a half after arriving at Leavenworth, Wojtalewicz's husband was deployed with his reserve unit. The amount of support from the community was tremendous, she said; it didn't matter that her husband was not active duty at the time.

"We couldn't have asked for a better place to be when he deployed," Wojtalewicz said. "They just take care of the families."