Forrest Gump is one of those movies that continues to make a lasting impression on audiences, generation after generation. For Gary Sinise, the actor who played Lieutenant Dan, platoon leader and wounded companion to Tom Hanks' titular character, the role sparked a passion that transcended acting: honoring and supporting veterans, first responders and their families.
“When I started going into the hospital after playing Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump and visiting with people that were actually blown up — not pretend like I was in the movie — I was more interested in talking to them about this story of Lieutenant Dan's life after his injury," Sinise said. "To get to that place where they can move beyond their injuries.”
In 2011, the actor founded the Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on giving back to those who sacrificed for the country. Since its creation, the charity has built 74 specially adapted smart homes for wounded heroes, served over half a million meals and provided over 300 relief grants to first responders, among many other programs.
A home fit for a hero
Shortly after creating the foundation, Sinise met Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason Ross, a double amputee recovering from an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Afghanistan. At the time, Jason was one of the most severely injured servicemembers to have survived such an encounter.
When Sinise met Jason, he recalled being taken aback by the extent of his injuries.
“I looked at Jason and I recall I said, ‘Well, you are a miracle,’” said Sinise.
Jason's father, Gary Ross, recalled the doctors explaining that his son’s recovery process was going to take a long time and that he would require a lot of help.
“That's when I effectively recognized that I was going to be his caregiver,” said Gary.