Making a difference

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We are nothing. Then we are born. We live. We die. Then we are nothing again. That’s it. That’s the cycle. Whether there’s an afterlife, reincarnation, a heaven or some other existence beyond this one depends on your faith and is unknowable to us in this world. What is definitely knowable is the limited cycle we have on this earth. That little bit of time in the middle between nothing and nothing is when we live, learn, love, laugh and cry. No matter how long it lasts for any of us, it’s not a long time at all in the grand scheme of things. A flash. What we do with that flash is up to us.

Some people waste the time they’re given, some people do nothing, some do evil, and then there are those special people who choose to make a difference for the betterment of others in this world. One of those special people is actor Gary Sinise, who has just been named grand marshal of the 2018 Rose Parade. The theme this year is “Making a Difference.” For many of our country’s military veterans and their families, Mr. Sinise has made a tremendous difference.

Mr. Sinise has made a tremendous difference.

For close to 40 years, Gary Sinise has been an ardent supporter of various veterans’ organizations, both personally and through his Lt. Dan Band that he started and named for the character he played in Forest Gump. He has performed on USO tours at military bases around the world, and volunteered for the National Vietnam Veterans Arts Museum now called the National Veterans Art Museum.

Mr. Sinise is on the Advisory Council of Hope For The Warriors, a national nonprofit dedicated to provide a full cycle of nonmedical care to combat-wounded service members, their families and families of the fallen from each military branch. He serves as the national spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial and spends much of his time raising awareness for the memorial and other veterans’ service organizations.

In order to expand upon his individual efforts, Mr. Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011. Its mission is to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities. Among its many outreach efforts, the Foundation is building custom Smart Homes for severely wounded veterans, serving hearty meals to deploying troops and hosting spirit-boosting festivals for patients, families and medical staff at military hospitals.

His devotion and work to aid our military vets has not gone unnoticed. Mr. Sinise has received many honors through the years including the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Medal of Honor Society, the Spirit of the USO Award, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Doughboy Award and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from the National Defense Industrial Association.

In 2008, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. In 2012, Sinise was presented with the Spirit of Hope Award by the Department of Defense.

In addition, he was made an honorary U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West in 2012. In 2013, he was named an honorary Marine by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In that same year, he was awarded the third highest honor within the Department of the Army Civilian Awards, the Outstanding Civilian Service Award, for substantial contributions to the U.S. Army community through his work with the Gary Sinise Foundation.

He participated in Troopathon VI for 2013, as he has in the past, to help raise money for care packages for American troops. He received 2015’s Sylvanus Thayer Award, awarded by the West Point Association of Graduates to a civilian whose character, service and achievements reflect the ideals prized by the U.S. Military Academy.

“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” says Sinise. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”

Gary Sinise is one man who took his brief flash of life on earth and decided to make the most of it. God bless him.

Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.  

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