Speaking as a special guest at the States Dinner during the 132nd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Orlando, Florida on 5 August 2014, actor Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie Forrest Gump, thanked the Knights of Columbus for its support of his foundation for wounded military personnel. He said, “You have shown that you can be a shining light of hope” for severely injured veterans.
During his Annual Report earlier in the day, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced that the Order provided $200,000 to the Gary Sinise Foundation to help build a computer-equipped “smart” home for U.S. Army Cpl. Kyle Hockenberry, who lost both legs and his left arm in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Afghanistan. Located in Marietta, Ohio, the home is custom built to accommodate a wheelchair and the special challenges faced by Hockenberry and his wife, Ashley.
In an emotional and very personal talk, Sinise recalled growing up during the final years of the unpopular Vietnam War and not thinking much about the sacrifice of those who fought. Talking with family members who served in the military, however, inspired him to begin working with veterans in 1984. Ten years later, amid a successful acting career, Sinise jumped at the opportunity to play double amputee Vietnam vet “Lt. Dan” in the popular film Forrest Gump. He said that by playing the role with depth and integrity, he saw his work as another way to pay back veterans for their sacrifices.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson welcomes actor Gary Sinise as a special guest to the States Dinner at the 132nd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Orlando, Florida on 5 August 2014.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sinise became even more determined to do something lasting for those who served their country, forming the Lt. Dan Band and entertaining troops with the USO. In 2011, he launched the Gary Sinise Foundation, which has developed numerous programs to help veterans who are injured physically or emotionally. Sinise also shared the personal story of how he and his wife began attending Mass and eventually entered the Catholic Church. She was confirmed in 2000 and he was confirmed on Christmas Eve 2010. “The Church has been a rock for me and my family,” Sinise said.
After the moving address, Supreme Knight Anderson received wholehearted applause asked the 2,000 Knights and their family members attending the States Dinner if the Order should continue its collaboration with the Gary Sinise Foundation. One of the homes in the planning stages is for Cedar Falls native Taylor Morris, the former U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician who lost parts of all four limbs.
To learn more on the Gary Sinise Foundation, visit www.GarySiniseFoundation.org.