Gary Sinise on Service: ‘I Felt Called by God’

Actor Gary Sinise appearing in the classic film "Forrest Gump."

By Mark Judge Published on September 2, 2020

If you’re tired of lefty, virtue-signaling, punitive and angry Hollywood, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service, the recent memoir by actor Gary Sinise.

When it comes to patriotism, God-centered service, and just basic kindness, Sinise is as close to a saint as Tinseltown will get. He would be the first to deny that because he is genuinely humble. But Sinise is that rarest of birds, a genuinely talented, good, and God-centered Hollywood man. His fellow thespians could do worse than read Grateful American and follow its example.

From Gump to Grateful American

Sinise, 65, is best known for playing Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination. He also has played detective Mac Taylor for nine seasons on CSI: NY. He’s won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award.

More important than the accolades, however, are service and gratitude. In Grateful American Sinise focuses not on parties, huge paychecks, irritating co-stars or difficult shoots, but on “blessings, gratitude and giving back.” He appreciates his fellow actors who gave him advice and a curtain call when he had a minor role. He loves his sister, who struggled with addiction and helped come through thanks to his prayers and help. Sinise is especially thankful for Barbara Patterson, the drama teacher who, when he was a sophomore at Highland Park High School outside Chicago, asked him to audition for West Side Story.

It changed his life. Sinise got the part of a gang member, and in doing so “found this new place that felt like home.” After high school he co-founded the Tony-winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, which is now a multimillion-dollar theatrical institution.

Helping Our Disabled Vets

Most impressive is the Gary Sinise Foundation, which builds special homes configured for the needs of for disabled veterans. His Lt. Dan Band entertains the armed forces at concerts, and Sinise has frequently flown a group of WW II vets — along with high school students — to the WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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In Grateful American, Sinise reveals the moment that he felt called by God to serve. It happened the Friday after the September 11 2001 attacks on America by Islamic extremists. Sinise describes what happened in the book, which is repeated at the 6:36 mark of the video below.


It was actually three days after September 11. September 11 was on a Tuesday. … George Bush the president called for a national day of prayer to happen on the Friday after September 11. Churches all over the country were packed. People were going to their churches just trying to find some healing, something to help deal with our broken hearts.

I went to our local Catholic church… . I remember it was standing room only. I was in standing room only, I was standing on the side. They were singing “God Bless America,” and everybody had tears, it was very powerful, very moving.

Out priest was … talking about service, and how service above self was very healing. And that we all needed to try to do something to help out country heal. I heard that very specifically that Friday after Sept, 11. That I think galvanized something in me. I just felt called by God to do something to help heal the men and women who were deploying in response to that event.

Once we started deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan and we started losing people and they started getting hurt… . I thought that’s where I can place my energy. That’s where I can serve. I’ve been involved with Vietnam veterans. I don’t want our active duty folks deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan coming home to a nation that treated them the way our Vietnam veterans were treated. I started doing everything I could. It all manifested itself into this foundation.

Seriously, can this guy just run for president?


Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C.

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