Third Infantry Division soldiers and their families braved the rain Sunday to crowd into the Newman Fitness Center gymnasium for a free concert by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. The event was moved indoors due to rain and was delayed an hour, but that didn’t keep attendees from waiting for and enjoying the show.
Sinise, an actor, director and musician who is known, among other things, for his roles as Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie “Forrest Gump” and Detective Mac Taylor on the CBS series “CSI: New York,” said the concert marked his band’s third time playing Fort Stewart.
“We’ve had a good time playing here a couple of times before, and we’re glad to be back,” he said. “Sorry for the weather, but the show must go on. We’re right here in the gym and just glad we have a good place to play.”
Since he’s an avid supporter of military charities, Sinise said creating his own charity, the Gary Sinise Foundation, was a natural extension of his work. The foundation provides musical entertainment so that organizations like the USO can stage free shows for military communities. Sinise looks at the foundation as a way to give back to the men and women in uniform.
The audience included many Gold Star Families, whose loved ones were killed in action while serving in the military. Supporting those who’ve experienced profound loss is something that Sinise said is important to him.
“Life goes on for everybody, but for them, they never stop missing their loved one. And if we can help them through that … make sure that they know that we care about them, that we’re grateful and that we appreciate their sacrifices and that we don’t take it for granted,” he said. “If we can grieve right along with them, maybe that can help them. They deserve it.”
The event, sponsored by the USO, was funded by the Gary Sinise Foundation, said Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield commander. He introduced Sinise to the crowd and pointed out that the celebrity has been given more than 90 awards and accolades for his work supporting service members, their dependants and, especially, Gold Star Families.
“I believe that Gary Sinise is truly this generation’s Bob Hope,” Murray said as the audience erupted in cheers and applause.
The cover band entertained the crowd for nearly two hours with a mix of classic and contemporary rock as well as pop. The set included hits from Bruce Springsteen, The Who and Bruno Mars, which kept many concertgoers on their feet, dancing. In honor of the Gold Star Families in attendance, the band played Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”
One Gold Star Family member, Dottie Callina, drove more than four hours from the Atlanta area with her two sisters to honor the memory of her nephew, Sgt. Paul Saylor, who was killed in action in August 2005. Saylor was stationed on Fort Stewart when he died and is memorialized with a tree on Warriors Walk.
Callina said they visit Fort Stewart annually for the December wreath-laying ceremony on Warriors Walk and, occasionally, for other special events, such as Sunday’s concert.
“For everyone else, life goes back to normal. But for us, a piece of you is always missing,” Callina said. “By God’s grace, you find a new way to live and carry on, but it isn’t the same.”
Callina said events that remind Gold Star Families that they are not alone are helpful. She enjoys coming back to Fort Stewart because she said the community always welcomes them.
“It makes you realize there are great people in the world. … It is days like this, when people like Gary Sinise come out and say, ‘Thanks,’ that you know that your soldier’s memory will always live on,” she said. “You realize you are not alone, and he is not forgotten.”