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Gary Sinise, Protector of Children

Gary Sinise would like your money. But what he really wants are your rulers. And your crayons. And some nice sharp pencils would be great, too. That's because Sinise, the poker-faced cop on TV's CSI: New York, is the driving force behind Operation Iraqi Children, a nationwide effort to send school supplies to kids who dodge bullets and bombs on their way to class in war-torn Iraq. More than 200,000 children have received the school kits—solicited by Sinise's charitable organization and distributed by U.S. soldiers. "The way we hear it, we think everybody over there's got a gun and everybody's shooting at each other," says Sinise, 52, in his flat midwestern drawl. "But there are millions of average people like you and me just trying to make a living and send their kids to school." Since 2004, Sinise's group has raised more than $1 million, largely through its website. Sinise also has been to Iraq three times, performing for the troops with his rock group, the Lt. Dan Band (named for the Forrest Gump character that earned him an Oscar nomination in 1994). "I just feel our defenders need our support," says Sinise. "There are serious people out there who want to destroy this country. If we didn't have these volunteers, what would we do?" He pauses and laughs, as if at the sheer audacity of the notion. "What would we do?"