“Always Do A Little More”: Decades Of Supporting And Serving American Veterans And First Responders

Gary Sinise


Gary Sinise grew up in the Chicago area with his parents, who were high school sweethearts, and his younger brother and sister. Military service was important in his family. Uncles served in the Army Air Corps and Navy during World War II, and his father, Robert, was a photographer in the Navy during the Korean War. Robert Sinise was stationed in the D.C. area and learned film processing and editing while in the service, skills that he later used in civilian life. As a young man, Gary acknowledges that he was not a great student and was probably “running wild” in high school, but he learned that if he wanted something he had to “do it yourself.” At a young age, he learned to play the guitar and performed in a number of bands. He also did theater in high school. He did not attend college after high school, instead forming a small theater with two friends (Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry). They were “just kids” who wanted to keep acting after high school. The Steppenwolf theater was an intimate space with only 88 seats in the house, but has grown to become a major institution in the Chicago area. Gary’s wife, Moira, also came from a military family. Her two brothers, her sister, and her brother-in-law were all in the service. Her brother Boyd McCanna “Mac” Harris (their son’s namesake) graduated from West Point in 1966. Through veterans in his and his wife’s families Gary gained a deep appreciation for those who served in the military. In the 80s, when he was the artistic director at Steppenwolf, he directed a play called “Tracers,” written by John DiFusco and a group of Vietnam Veterans (writers include Vincent Caristi, Richard Chaves, Eric E. Emerson, Rick Gallavan, Merlin Marston, and Harry Stephens). The play was very successful, and every Tuesday night was free admittance for veterans. Gary found the play to be “very healing” for veterans. In 1993, he auditioned for the role of Lt. Dan Taylor for the movie “Forrest Gump.” The movie’s success led to him receiving the Commander’s Award for the Disabled American Veterans in 1994 at their national convention, which increased his motivation to help Veterans. During the National Day of Prayer on Friday after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Gary was moved to tears and he realized he had “a new role to play,” devoting himself to helping veterans and first responders in earnest and appreciating the healing possibilities of service. When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, he jumped at the opportunity to travel with the USO and meet service members on the front lines. He also made trips to treatment facilities like Walter Reed, Bethesda, and Landstuhl, meeting those who have been wounded. His passion to help veterans and first responders was becoming a mission as he felt called to “do something greater.” His Gary Sinise Foundation continues to grow as he seeks more opportunities to become involved. At the end of the interview, he reflects on receiving the Thayer Award in 2015.


conflicts Iraq War Afghanistan War Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork September 11 2001 Military Families West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 24 June 2024


name Gary Sinise
specialty Actor, Philanthropist, Humanitarian, Volunteer