Actor Gary Sinise - aka "Lt. Dan" - has been blurring the line between art and real life for years.
And many American wounded vets are grateful for his efforts.
This past month, Gary Sinise took 50 servicemen and women from Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Fort Belvoir in Virginia, and Naval Medical Center in San Diego, on a three-day, all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland.
American Airlines flew the vets to California, and the trip included a visit to Paramount Studios, a meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Anaheim, and meetings with a few celebrities, including Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. Hanks played Forrest Gump in the 1994 movie. Sinise played Lt. Dan Taylor, a vet who lost both legs in Vietnam.
Sinise has played many other roles, including nine seasons on "CSI: New York" as Detective Mac Taylor. But he told ABC's "Good Morning America," it was Lt. Dan's character that his shaped his mission with US servicemen and women.
"There's something different about this part.... I've walked into so many hospital rooms and they look at me and they think I know what they're going through."
For years, Sinise has performed for US soldiers. And more recently he formed the Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for veteran initiatives.
His foundation's mission statement is as follows:
“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted. 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.” -
"I just couldn't not do anything," Sinise told "Good Morning America." "I've seen a lot of need and I've become very committed to [being] somebody who can try to make a difference."
Here's what one vet on the trip to California said: "After the injuries and all that, it feels like you can't go out in the world anymore," said Staff Sgt. Michael Irish. "All you want to do is be in a dark room and just sleep it off… and now with Gary and his organization helping us… to have fun and be yourself, that's very important to all of us."
One of his foundation's programs includes building "smart homes" for wounded veterans. This past week, ground was broken on a new home in Jacksonville, Alabama, for Retired Sgt. Ben Tomlinson, who served in the US Marines. He was shot in Afghanistan and is paralyzed from the chest down, reports The Gadsden Times.
The three-bedroom home will be custom built, so that nearly every facet of the house will be able to accommodate Tomlinson. The cabinets and counter tops raise and lower and the hallways are much wider to accommodate his wheelchair.
The construction of the home is a joint project involving various charities, including The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Sinise and his band tour regularly to entertain US soldiers and to raise funds for the foundation's projects.