Wednesday, May 04, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Thanks, Lt. Dan

Gary Sinise, the actor best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in “Forrest Gump,” performed Friday with his Lt. Dan Band at Little Rock Air Force Base as part of a USO tour.
Sinise, who played a Vietnam veteran who lost both legs in the movie, performs about 30 concerts a year at military bases all over the country and around the world. The shows are one of several projects of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which is more impressive than most other support-the-troops organizations. The Sinise Foundation builds so-called smart homes for veterans who have lost limbs in battle. The homes allow them to live more independent and productive lives with their families.

On its website,, visitors can read about the dozens of service members, in as many states, who have received smart homes, some newly built and some retrofitted with handicapped-accessible features, that have computerized features to easily control lighting, window blinds, heating and cooling, and more. Thanks to Sinise’s work, these permanently wounded veterans are living more comfortably.

The website includes stories of the veterans helped by the foundation:

• Air Force Tech Sgt. Joseph Wilkinson of Averill Park, N.Y., a member of the Security Forces, who is paralyzed from a degenerative nerve condition that may have been caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“On Christmas Eve 2012, Joe and his family moved into their new custom Smart Home. Joe said, ‘More independence for me…That gives my family a break. My kids and my wife, they can go back to leading their lives…There are no words I can say to express my gratitude. Somehow I’ll pay it forward. My actions will show how grateful we are,’” according to the website.

• Marine Corporal Christian Brown of Munford, Tenn., who was maimed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2011. “He sustained multiple traumas to both hands and arms, amputations of his right leg below the hip joint and left leg above the knee, internal injuries and blast wounds to his upper left thigh,” according to the website.

After moving into his custom smart home, Brown said, “It’s just time to get back to being my own person...It’s really exciting because I know I can live on my own and I can take care of myself, even in a wheelchair.” 

• Army Specialist Jerral Hancock of Palmdale, Calif., a tank driver who on his 21st birthday in 2007 lost his left arm, was badly burned and was paralyzed below the chest from shrapnel in his spine, in an explosion.

He had been living in a cramped mobile home with his son and daughter before moving into his new home provided free by the Gary Sinise Foundation.

The foundation also provides outreach to veterans to help them integrate back into civilian life. It documents war stories of World War II veterans as well as several other programs that honor the sacrifice and courage of people who serve in the military.

We’re glad Sinise visited Little Rock Air Force Base. If you missed him, you can see his new TV show “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” tonight at 7 on CBS.        

— Jonathan Feldman