By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2012 – Actor Gary Sinise’s efforts to help wounded warriors were highlighted by journalist David Martin on last night’s broadcast of the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
In the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” Sinise portrayed “Lt. Dan,” an Army officer who loses both legs while serving in the Vietnam War and overcomes adversity following his discharge.
Since visiting Iraq as part of a USO tour in 2003, Sinise and his foundation have worked to support service members and veterans. Martin’s “60 Minutes” story focused on Sinise’s foundation helping to build custom “smart homes” for real-life amputees, such as Marine Corps Cpl. Juan Dominguez, who lost both legs and an arm to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010.
In his report, Martin said that as of May 1, 1,459 service members from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had limbs amputated. Of those, 439 lost more than one limb, and Dominguez is one of 39 who’d lost three, he said.
“I basically thought I was worthless until one of the [quadruple] amputees that were there, he was walking around like it was nothing,” Dominguez said in the “60 Minutes” report. He was referring to Marine Corps Cpl. Todd Nicely, one of five surviving quadruple amputees.
“I have a feeling 10 years down the road I'm not even [going to] remember what it was like to have arms and legs,” said Nicely, who was injured in March 2010 when he stepped on a booby-trapped bridge in Afghanistan.
Martin reported that Nicely and his wife, Crystal, are about to move into a new house being built in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., and paid for by Sinise, who performs throughout the year with his Lt. Dan Band, raising money for wounded service members.
Nicely explained to Martin during the interview what the new home will mean to his family.
“For me, it means getting my life back -- you know, being able to do a lot of the things on my own,” he said.
Living without hands is the hardest thing, Nicely told Martin, but he added that having the house will make life 10 times easier.
Martin noted during the interview that Sinise’s foundation assists the severely wounded by building new homes. But triple amputee Bryan Anderson said he doesn't want one.
“I'm good,” he said. “Like, I get around just fine. I do everything I [want to] do. I don't need it, so give it to somebody that would take it, and I would feel guilty taking something away from somebody that could actually need it.”
Anderson explained how he’d met Sinise and became friends with the actor while learning to use his new prosthetic legs during physical therapy at Walter Reed Medical Center. “I just put my arms out and I landed on the first person that I could grab, and then I look up. I'm like, ‘Oh, holy crap, it's Gary Sinise.’
"And he looks at me,” Anderson continued. “He's like ‘Holy crap, the real Lt. Dan,’ and I'm just like, ‘No, no, no, no, you'll always be Lt. Dan,’” Anderson said.
Anderson said he and Sinise began to talk about everyday things. “It was like he was talking to me as a person and not just a wounded soldier,” he added.
Anderson said he is now in a “very good place” in his life and credits some of that to Sinise.
“Gary's responsible for the beginning,” he said. “I've done a lot on my own for myself. Gary was the one to show me that I can do everything -- that it is possible. He really showed me that I can still do anything. It doesn't matter that I'm in a [wheelchair]. If this guy can see that, why can't I?”