News 12 First at Five / Thursday, April 21, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He's and award-winning actor known for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in "Forrest Gump" and as Detective Mac Taylor on "CSI: New York." Today, Gary Sinise was right here in Augusta to pay tribute to local soldiers. News 12 was there as the actor visited at the V.A. hospital and met patients with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Sinise says the visit was all about expressing thanks. "It's a dangerous world out there and we need our military. We need them to stay strong. This is a difficult time." Outside of acting, Gary Sinise has made a name for himself by promoting various humanitarian projects, especially for wounded veterans. His friend, a decorated veteran who was injured in combat, told him about the Wounded Warriors Project, he explains. "I've been meaning to get down here for a while."
"You cant help everybody all at once or anything," Sinise adds. "But you can help a few and you're gonna chip away and do some good. And that's what I'm trying to do." Sinise met with all of the Wounded Warrior patients at the V.A., eating lunch with them and sharing stories of his own visits with soldiers overseas.
Dr. Dennis Hollins is the Medical Director of the V.A.'s active duty rehab program. He appreciated Sinise's visit. "He could be anywhere right now. He could be on a tropical beach feeling good about himself. But instead he chose to come here."
Thomas was in the Army for three years before being injured in Afghanistan last December. He's now a Wounded Warrior patient. "I didn't really know what to expect but he's a real nice guy, real down to earth. Your average, every day guy," he says of Sinise.
Hollins says more than 25,000 soldiers, like Thomas, have been injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan Thomas says he will, fortunately, be out of a wheelchair in a few months, thanks to his rehab. "For every soldier that we loose, three or four more are wounded. And we just sort of get lost in the system." Sinise adds, "It does help a little bit when people come to visit them. So if I can do that as an entertainer, come in and show my support... I've seen it helps a little bit just for them to know that people care."
They point out, as deployments continue, so will injuries overseas... and rehabilitation back here in Augusta. Thomas believes, "Programs like Wounded Warrior and people like Gary Sinise really help bring a light to that, let the public know there are still soldiers out there who are affected by the war and have a story to tell and a life that they still have to carry on no matter what their wounds are."
Of course the soldiers couldn't help joking with each other, "Run, Forrest, Run!" as they were working on their rehab today on treadmills. Sinise is also a musician. His band is playing in Savannah this weekend, so he tells News 12 it was the perfect opportunity to swing by Augusta.
Tonight, Sinise will be sitting down for a special dinner. The Georgia 319th Transportation Company Vietnam Veterans are having a special dinner to honor Wounded Warriors. It will be at Richmond on Greene in downtown Augusta. The sold out-dinner starts at 7 p-m. Members of the 319th say they are honored to have Sinise join them for dinner.