Award-winning actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band turned McGlachlin Parade Field into an outdoor rock concert on May 18.
Sinise, best known for his poignant portrayal of Lt. Dan, a disabled Vietnam veteran in the acclaimed 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” led a two-hour free concert of pop, rock and roll, country and patriotic songs for an audience of hundreds of service members and their families.
Sinise also starred in the former television series “CSI New York.”
Navy veteran Michelle Stilipec spent the entire evening dancing to every song.
“It was really good; it was awesome,” said Stilipec, who came with her husband, James. “It was good to see [Sinise] up close after seeing him in the movies.”
Stilipec’s husband, who retired from the Navy after 20 years, agreed.
“It’s great to see a celebrity like him who supports the troops,” James Stilipec said.
The concert was sponsored by the USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore and the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Elaine Rogers, president and CEO of USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, said the organization has a partnership with the foundation to present its Invincible Spirit Festival, which aims to boost the morale at military medical centers across the country.
The festival is a daylong celebration that provides a respite from the rigors of rehabilitation for hospital patients, staff and families, according to the foundation’s website.
As a result of the partnership, Sinise was asked a few years ago to perform at Fort Meade.
“We thought it would be great to do it during the 100th anniversary of Fort Meade,” Rogers said. “It’s a great joint effort and we’re very excited about tonight.”
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard said Fort Meade appreciates Sinise’s efforts.
“We’re really excited,” Rickard said. “This is something that Mr. Sinise said he would do. He’s just a great supporter. … We’re really, really proud to have him here.”
After the concert, Rickard presented Sinise with two slates from the old roof of garrison headquarters decorated with a decoupage of photos of famous entertainers who had trained at Fort Meade.
Sinise, who hails from a military family, has been an advocate for service members and their families for 40 years. An electric bassist, Sinise started the Lt. Dan Band in 2003 and performs hundreds of shows for service members, veterans and their families in the U.S. and abroad.
‘Have A Great Time’
He established the Gary Sinise Foundation to “serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need,” according to the organization’s website. “We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.”
In an interview before the concert, Sinise was reflective about his commitment to the military.
“It’s just a very personal thing,” he said. “I value my freedom. I know where it comes from. I know who sacrifices for it and I just want to let them know how much I appreciate it.”
“I want everybody to have a great time — that’s it. Military life can be stressful sometimes. There’s long deployments, people are gone. It’s dangerous sometimes. …
“Today is a day about relaxing and enjoying, and letting us express our gratitude for what you do to serve our country.”
Prior to the concert, the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the music group Stolen Silver performed.
The 12-member Lt. Dan Band played on a large stage that was complete with concert lighting and sound.
The performance began with “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars. Sinise came down stage to play the electric bass before a crowd of well-wishers on the parade field.
Vocalists Molly Callinan, Julie Dutchak, Dan Myers, Mari Anne Jayme and Jeff Vezain then performed a wide range of songs including “I Wish” and “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Rosanna,” by Toto, “Let’s Dance, Let’s Shout, Shake Your Body Down to The Ground” by Michael Jackson, “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” originally performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, and later by Diana Ross.
Highlights of the concert included Jayme’s rendition of “Conga” by Gloria Estefan. Jayme sang and led a conga line of audience members through the field.
Dutchak and Jayme later selected a male member of the audience and serenaded him with Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.”
“It’s fantastic,” said Sgt. Nathaniel Phillips, a broadcaster at the Defense Media Activity, of the concert. “I think it’s just great that he gives so much to the military.
“This is my third time seeing him and his band. Every time I PCS, I see Gary Sinise.”
The concert closed out with all the vocalists performing “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.
Throughout the concert, Sinise thanked audience members for their sacrifice and shared why he devotes so much time to service members and their families.
Sinise said he began his advocacy as a supporter of Vietnam veterans in the 1970s and ’80s. After the 9/11 attacks, Sinise said, he felt he had to “do something” and established his band and foundation.
“This show is for you,” he said. “Spread the word and tell everyone that we’re good.”
As a farewell, Sinise declared: “Honor, gratitude and rock ‘n’ roll.”