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By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong
Simi Valley, California- Actor Gary Sinise was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
”As you, all may know, not all heroes are made on the battlefield,” actor Joe Mantegna said at the Feb. 5 event. ”All I can tell you is knowing this man for as long as I have, for 40 years, his status as a patriot is only equaled by his status as a husband, as a father, and as a friend. ”Therefore, it really is my pleasure and privilege to award the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Patriot Award to my friend, Gary Sinise.”
Teary-eyed and enthusiastic, Sinise shook the hand of Medal of Honor recipient Drew D. Dix and accepted the award for nearly four decades of work helping service members, veterans, first responders, and their families.
”To receive this award from them is very special,” he said. I’ve been involved with the society for many years going back to 2007, and I’ve done many events with them. I’ve made such good friends amongst this incredible group of people and to have them acknowledge me is just a great, great honor.”
Sinise began his work as an advocate of service members in the early 1980s, supporting Vietnam veteran groups and creating Vets Night, a program offering free dinners and performances to veterans. Continuing to the 1990s in support of the Disabled American Veterans organization, he raised awareness and support for wounded service members. Since the attacks of 9/11, his dedication to those who have served became a crusade of gratitude.
Sinise’s portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the award-winning film ”Forrest Gump” further strengthened his connection with the military community. After several USO handshake tours, Sinise formed the Lt. Dan Band in 2003 and began touring to entertain troops in early 2004. Since then, the band has performed hundreds of concerts on military bases and for charities and fundraisers in support of wounded heroes, Gold Star families, veterans and troops around the world.
He also formed a foundation to expand his individual efforts and is a spokesman and board member for various organizations that support veterans, service members, and their families.
Sinise received the award alongside David McIntyre, president, and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance. TriWest Healthcare Alliance ensures veterans in roughly half the nation have access to health care when it can’t be provided directly by the Veterans Affairs Department.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society officials said the Patriot Award is bestowed upon individuals who possess the highest ethics and selfless dedication in the demonstration of the six values embodied by the Medal of Honor: courage, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, citizenship, and patriotism. Every year, the society honors Americans who have distinguished themselves through a lifetime of work upholding these ideals. It is the highest civilian award the society grants.
(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong is assigned to the American Forces Network Broadcast Center.)