‘Top Line’ at the Movies: Gary Sinise and ‘Lt. Dan Band’

By Eliza

Jul 5, 2011 11:00am

ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports:

When actor Gary Sinise walks onto a military base – something he’s done regularly for decades, for charity work, as well as visiting family members who’ve served – there’s one name that he hears more than any other: “Lieutenant Dan.”

That would be Lt. Dan Taylor, the crusty commanding officer from “Forrest Gump.” Sinise’s character returns from Vietnam physically and emotionally broken, only to rise up on Forrest’s urging to astounding success after leaving the military.

It’s that spirit that Sinise carries to the Lt. Dan Band, which Sinise and his fellow musicians have brought to military bases across the world. And it’s that spirit that drives the new downloadable documentary film about the band’s travels: “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.”

“Top Line” caught up with Sinise to discuss his work for veterans’ causes through the Gary Sinise Foundation, and the famous character that may be his most enduring link to the service members he helps champion.

“I'm always a little bit surprised still today that people recognize me for that, but if you look at it — that movie is on television like every other month,” Sinise said. “They sell thousands of DVDs to new generations of kids that are seeing it. …”

“I think with the military, it’s a character that really resonates — the story. You know, it’s a resilient story, where he wants to be that great soldier and he kind of gets cut away from. But then he, at the end, he rises up again. He stands up.”

Sinise talked about the particular challenges facing the current generation of veterans and their families.

“It’s 0.5 percent of the population are our defenders. And if you don't personally know somebody who's serving, or you have a friend or family member or something like that, life goes on and you do your thing,” he said. “If they're not on the front pages and they're not being talked about, it’s very easy to forget that they're out there sacrificing for us. There’s a very, very small percentage of the population of the United States that defends our country.”

Sinise said he hopes the new film will be watched by troops serving in war zones:

“A platoon in Iraq or in Afghanistan or somewhere and you have Internet access — you can download this movie and watch it. And it’s a morale-boosting movie, because it’s all about them.”

Watch the full segment with Gary Sinise HERE.

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