–by Michael Pierce
GRATEFUL AMERICAN: A JOURNEY FROM SELF TO SERVICE by Gary Sinise and Marcus Brotherton. Published February 12, 2019 by Thomas Nelson. Cover photo courtesy of the publisher.
I don’t think there’s anyone who’s not familiar with Gary Sinise’s portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the film Forrest Gump. Little did the actor know the impact that role would have on him, and American soldiers and veterans, over the following decades.
Sinise tells his story in GRATEFUL AMERICAN. He gives readers a story of a not-so-successful student who went on to greater things as a man who has devoted his life to helping others.
Born and raised in Chicago, Sinise seems to have always had an urge to perform. He put together lip synching bands until he and his friends actually learned to play instruments, and it was an encounter with a high school drama teacher that led him into the world of acting.
Straight out of high school, and wondering what to do with his life, Gary founded the world renowned Steppenwolf Theater Company. He was a typical kid, long hair and worn out jeans, when he met his future wife, Moira, and it was at that point that his life took a turn.
Moira had a brother who was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Gary would listen to his stories of his experiences in Vietnam, and his experiences as a veteran, and he came to realization that he needed to do something more with his life.
This realization became reality not long after the world was exposed to Lieutenant Dan. Sinise quickly found himself being recognized, not as Gary Sinise the actor, but as the character he had portrayed. Vietnam veterans, and their families, recognized the character as the most accurate portrayal of Vietnam veterans ever presented. The physical and emotional struggles of Lieutenant Dan were real. Lieutenant Dan became an icon, and Sinise had found his calling.
Gary’s work for veterans, first responders, and their families began on a small scale. He got together with some musician friends and they became the Lieutenant Dan Band, playing concerts all over the world for American troops and all over America for veterans and first responders.
GRATEFUL AMERICAN is a great book. Readers will quickly notice that Sinise is not blowing his own horn. Quite the contrary, what comes out is the story of a man who has been truly blessed throughout his life. Combine this with his description of the hard work he had to do to accomplish what he has done, and a portrait of a person devoted to serving others quickly emerges.
Particularly moving are the last few chapters of the book. Gary goes into great detail presenting the stories of some of the people he has encountered on his journey. It’s at this point that we see he is a master storyteller, which probably comes naturally for an actor. Trust me, you’ll need to keep a box of tissue nearby.
GRATEFUL AMERICAN has all the elements of a great book. Excellent writing, a narrative that flows easily, and the story of a person who hears the higher calling of service. Gary Sinise is not just an actor, he’s not just a humanitarian, he’s a beautiful human being.
For more information on the Gary Sinise Foundation, please go to www.garysinisefoundation.org.