Jan. 22, 2006 -- Actor Gary Sinise, the star of "CSI: N.Y." who played a disabled Vietnam veteran in the film "Forest Gump," traveled to Iraq and was so touched by what he saw that he founded a charity, Operation Iraqi Children, located online at http://www.operationiraqichildren.org. He spoke to "This Week" about the experience.
Gary Sinise: The school that we went to was very, very modest by our standards … nothing but a dirt floor -- no windows, no fans, no toilets. It was just a cinder block structure with nothing.
So the troops went in there. And they put a concrete floor in. They knocked some holes in. They put windows in. They put fans in. … To these kids and to those Iraqis who had been living there, dealing with that school, it was like a brand-new place.
I was so moved by the experience and these kids were hanging on us and just hanging on the troops and just -- They were so wonderful with our soldiers. … And so I came home and … founded Operation Iraqi Children.
We've sent hundreds of thousands of school supplies over to the troops in Iraq. And they've taken them out all over the country and given them to the kids. … It's a way for you to support the troops by sending some pencils, some Beanie Babies, some soccer balls, some erasers, some notebooks. … And that all started because of one of those convoys that I went on.
Having played Lt. Dan Taylor in, in "Forrest Gump," a wounded veteran who lost two legs, a lot of these troops -- the young ones especially, you know, they were 8, 9 years old when "Forrest Gump" came out -- Now they're serving in the U.S. military, and maybe they have the same situation had happen to them that's happened to Lt. Dan. So when I walk in and I talk to them about their wounds or, you know, what happened to them, they identify and, you know, and I feel like I'm giving them something back.
We know what it was like for our Vietnam veterans to come back from war. … If they wore the uniform, they'd get spit on or whatever, or they were ashamed to wear their uniform. We never want that to happen to our veterans again, our service members. You know, it's an honorable thing to serve your country, to join up, to volunteer. We need those volunteers. We need those defenders.