NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Although Gary Sinise was acting when he played Lieutenant Dan in ‘Forrest Gump’, the military is a cause near and dear to his heart.
This weekend, children of fallen veterans came together for an event put on by the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Dylan Simon doesn’t remember much of his father, Marine Staff Sergeant Chad Simon. But he does know his dad loved his country and died after hitting an improvised explosive device (IED) while deployed in the Middle East.
Simon is one of hundreds of young adults remembering parents who died while serving. The event was held at the Opryland Hotel and it’s the first time the group has been able to gather since the pandemic.
“We’re laughing, we’re joking, we’re loving each other, we’re helping each other out, we’re remembering and it’s a safe place,” Simon said.
On Sunday, the group got to see a special concert put on by the Lieutenant Dan Band, featuring Sinise himself. Sinise recalls the first time he played for children of war heroes.
“I came out on stage and I was so profoundly shaken and moved. Heartbroken for the kids, but I could see what the music was doing for them; it was lifting them up and they were having a good time and that was the purpose for it,” Sinise said.
Serving these children is just one way Sinise’s foundation helps veterans. The organization recently relocated from Franklin to Tennessee.
“I think we’re going to have a good future here and a lot of support; we’re getting a lot of support here in Tennessee. People really care about the military here and it’s going to be a good place for us,” Sinise said.
For families like Simon’s, Sinise’s foundation means so much that his mom has even gotten involved and now works for the foundation.
“He really has a lot of involvement and encouragement and specific requests about making sure these families know that they are never forgotten, that sacrifice is never forgotten, and he wants them to feel like family forever,” widow Regina Sather said.
Sunday’s concert was one of many events Sinise holds for children around the country.
In December, the organization holds a major event at Disney World called the Snowball Express. Children and their surviving family members are invited to gather and celebrate the holidays together.