Walk of Fame Honoree Gary Sinise Goes Above and ‘Beyond’ for Veterans

The first time Gary Sinise came to Los Angeles to visit his family, his mother insisted on taking him to Hollywood Boulevard. “She wanted me to see the stars on the Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Theater,” recalls Sinise, whose father, a film editor, left Chicago in the mid-’70s for California. “I remember walking down there and seeing the names on the Walk of Fame and the handprints at Grauman’s. It had a dreamlike quality.”

So how does the 62-year-old actor feel now that he’s receiving his own star on the Walk of Fame on April 17? “A little bit surreal,” he admits with a laugh. “But certainly very nice and flattered and honored.”

Though he’s an Oscar nominee who has also accumulated countless awards for his work on stage and the small screen, Sinise is unfailingly modest. He’ll mention he “started a theater company with my pals,” not that it’s the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which boasts among its alumni John Malkovich and Joan Allen. Or he’ll refer to the success of his previous show “CSI: NY” without saying it was a ratings juggernaut that ran nine seasons. He’ll also constantly credit his success to the people he works with, such as with his latest, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.”

“When you’re working with good people, it’s just so nice,” he says of the CBS show, which is now in its second season. “The folks I work with on that show are just lovely.” He sings the praises of each cast member and adds that audiences will be learning more about his character, Jack Garrett, unit chief of the Intl. Response Team. “I love Sherry Stringfield, who plays my wife on the show. You’ll be seeing more of her and my family on the show this season. My son is also an agent, so we’ll explore that dynamic.”

“I’m just trying to do what I can to make sure they know they’re appreciated and what they do is not taken for granted.”
Gary Sinise

When he’s not in front of the cameras, Sinise dedicates much of his time to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which has created and supported programs to honor and help veterans of the military. Sinise’s commitment goes back to his early days at Steppenwolf, where he sought out the play “Tracers,” written by Vietnam vets, and began The Veterans’ Night Preview Series, which is active to this day and has now expanded to include other theaters including Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse. Sinise says it’s important for theater communities to interact with their local veterans. “It’s a great intersection of two things that are important to me,” he notes. “The entertainment part of my life — my career as an actor — and the veteran support part.”

But after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Sinise says he “was called to a new level of service.” He says: “That attack was devastating and we had a lot of people responding by signing up to join the military and deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq. I wanted to help them and support them and make sure what happened to our Vietnam veterans when they came home from war — they were treated shamefully with our country turning its back on them — I didn’t’ want that to happen to our guys. So I started pitching in whenever I could.”

Among its many programs are RISE (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment), which works on home modifications and adaptations to homes for the wounded, and the First Responders Outreach, which supports and provides equipment to firemen, policemen and EMTs. He also tours worldwide playing with the Lt. Dan Band, named after his character in “Forrest Gump.”
Asked where he finds time to do it all and star in a hit series, Sinise simply states, “You gotta sleep on airplanes. That’s it.”

Sinise himself has received military honors from the Navy and Marines, and been named an honorary battalion chief by the New York City Fire Department for his work, but again he downplays the attention and focuses it back on the veterans.

“As a private citizen, I’m just trying to do what I can to make sure they know that they’re appreciated and what they do is not taken for granted. I just want them to know that somebody like me cares about them,” he says. “That’s it, and if that can help make them feel a little stronger and a little better, then that’s a good way to serve.”

Tipsheet
What: Gary Sinise receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When: 11:30 a.m. April 17
Where: 6664 Hollywood Blvd.
Web: walkoffame.com

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