Gary Sinise (Department of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released). License: Public Domain
Gary Sinise has one of those faces that are impossible to forget, a face made for characters rough on the edges, but the man behind it couldn’t be further from that image. As his popularity increased he decided to have a bigger role in his life, one that could make a life worth living. 
Gary’s family tree has its roots in Italy, his great-grandfather immigrated to the US via Ellis Island. He came from Ripacandida, a small town in Basilicata, known for the San Donato Sanctuary, a shrine that is the center of a millennial pilgrimage. Vito Sinisi (later changed into Sinise) left with very little, a cheap suitcase held together by a rope and that dream of making it in the New World, like the thousands that left Italy at the turn of the century. He wouldn’t have dared to think that he would build a successful Hollywood family. His grandson Robert went to become a renowned film editor, in B-horror movies first and tv-shows later, while Gary would become the international movie star he is today.
When Gary was young he was sort of a rebel, often getting in trouble and not giving his full attention to school. He discovered his passion for acting by taking part in the school rendition of West Side Story, upon a recommendation by his drama teacher. His motivation was less than noble, like many at that age he just followed all the pretty girls that were auditioning. 
After getting on stage, he knew what he wanted to do, but instead of relying on his father’s connections in the business he opened a theatre company in Chicago with two friends of his, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry. They called it Steppenwolf. What started as a little venture in the basement of a church soon became one of the most respected theatre companies which have seen the like of Joan Allen, Ethan Hawke and John Malkovich among others.
In the midst of those theatre productions he also met his wife Moira, to whom he’s been married for 33 years. His first experience in Hollywood was actually behind the camera, as a director of two episodes of the series Crime Story and of the rural feature Miles From Home with Richard Gere. In 1992 he finally made it on the big screen as an actor in the World War II feature A Midnight Clear, set against the 1944 Battle of the Bulge through the forested Ardennes region. Then came Forrest Gump which propelled him into stardom. Lt. Dan was a character that went from resentment towards life, because of the loss of his legs in Vietnam, to a better appreciation thanks to the candor of the protagonist. Sinise really fought to get the part, he was surrounded by relatives and friends on both sides of his family that were veterans and that was his way to honor them.
As he is very proud of his Italian heritage Sinise is also proud of his country. Following the success and all the accolades for Forrest Gump he felt an obligation to continue his support for the troops. He started by visiting military bases and hospitals in Italy, Germany and Iraq, then he became involved with the United Service Organizations to raise money to help wounded soldiers. What he always wanted was assuring all the brave men coming home that they had a chance to move on with their life and not face another post-Vietnam situation. His passion was and still is genuine, and the troops overseas could sense that. The soldiers identified with him and called him by his character name, which was fine by the actor, because it meant they saw him as one of them.
The next logical step was founding the Gary Sinise Foundation. Every year since he goes overseas to visit the military bases and play charitable concerts with his band, the Lt Dan Band, named after his double amputee character. He plays around thirty shows per year to boost morale and raise funds. Such dedication and endless support has been getting a lot of attention and was even recognized by the Italian-American group Sons of Italy, which presented him with the SIF Award for Courage & Patriotism.
It was his friend and fellow Italian-American actor Joe Mantegna who, with sincere admiration, gave Sinise the award. “If by highlighting what I do shines a light on these brave men and women, that’s one way I feel like I can serve,” commented the actor at the ceremony.  
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