ACTOR & PATRIOT GARY SINISE SUPPORTS OUR TROOPS WITH SPIRIT & SHOWMANSHIP Actor Gary Sinise and his band help injured soldier at benefit
Associated Press | File February
Wounded war veteran Marine Cpl. Joshua "J.B." Kerns, 22, of Patrick County poses with actor and military activist Gary Sinise during a news conference in Martinsville. Sinise and his band will perform a benefit concert on behalf of Kerns on Thursday, May 24, 2012.
SEE ALSO: 'Impossible' is not in Patrick Co. Marine's vocabulary (March 27, 2012)
A special Marine and his supportive community drew actor and musician Gary Sinise to Southside, and a car crash could not stop him for long.
Sinise, the star of "CSI: New York," was a passenger in a crash in Washington, D.C., in late March. He was not badly hurt but had to postpone a fundraising concert that he and his Lt. Dan Band had planned to raise money for a Patrick County Marine who lost parts of both legs and an arm in Afghanistan.
Sinise and his group -- named for the war-wounded character he played in the movie "Forrest Gump" -- will make up that date Thursday as the opening performers at the fourth annual Rooster Walk Festival near Martinsville.
"I was sorry that I had to cancel that, but there was nothing I could do," Sinise said. "Luckily, I'm going to be OK and able to make up that concert."
Money raised through ticket sales to the show will go toward building a home designed and equipped for Marine Cpl. J.B. Kerns, 22, of Ararat. Kerns was on his third tour of duty when an improvised explosive device took his right arm below the elbow and both legs below the knees.
Tickets to the 7 p.m. show are $25, and all the money goes toward building the so-called "smart home."
"We're very happy to tie in with the Rooster Walk on that," Sinise said last week in an interview with The Roanoke Times. "We're going to show some support by raising money for J.B. Kerns, to build this special wounded Marine a specially designed home down there."
Rooster Walk VIP ticket holders may attend the Thursday night show. Lt. Dan Band tickets and Rooster Walk VIP passes still are available.
Sinise received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in "Forrest Gump," the 1994 movie that starred Tom Hanks. In the movie, Lt. Dan loses both legs in the Vietnam War.
Sinise formed the Lt. Dan Band in 2004, primarily for USO tours. The act performs about 40 times a year for troops and their families and to support charities that serve wounded soldiers and their families.
In 2010, he formed the nonprofit Gary Sinise Foundation, which last year began working with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (named after the New York City firefighter who perished on 9/11) to build homes for three quadruple amputees, according to the news release. This year, the foundations are working on nine more homes for soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Kerns.
Sinise said he first learned about Kerns through a video of his welcome home.
"And it was very moving," he said. "There's a lot of wounded warriors out there, and we're trying to help as many as we can. But he caught our eye, and we wanted to do something to give back to him. It seemed like a very supportive community. They welcomed him back.
"He got out of the car, on this video, with his two prosthetic legs and one prosthetic arm, and he was embraced by the community. And we want to do what we can to show our support, obviously."
Southside businesses are showing their support, as well. In a Monday news conference at The Big Chair, a Bassett Furniture-built landmark in Martinsville, Kerns thanked Bassett, Central States Manufacturing, Budget Blinds and H&S Enterprises for the contributions they are making.
Bassett is supplying furniture and accessories for the log cabin home. Central States is supplying the metal roof. Budget Blinds is donating window treatments and H&S will be the general contractors.
Land has been purchased at the Ararat River, according to a Tunnel to Towers Foundation news release.
The smart homes are custom designed to meet the needs of the amputee and typically feature energy-efficient appliances, along with automated systems to help them handle everyday tasks, said John Hodge, a spokesman for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Even cabinets and drawers can be opened and closed by pushing a button or using an application on an iPad. The costs for the homes range from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the location and features, Hodge said.
The new home will help Kerns be more independent, but in an interview with The Associated Press, he said his disability hasn't stopped him from living life to the fullest.
"I might be missing three limbs, but I still do a lot of stuff I used to do," Kerns said. "I still ride my four-wheeler, I still go out shooting and fishing and hunting.
"Ever since I've gotten hurt, I've had good spirits about anything and everything. I'm going to do what I want to do, you know. I'm not going to let it slow me down."
Kerns said he thinks it's great that Sinise stuck to his word and is "giving up his free time" to help raise money for his new home.
Sinise said he appreciates the sacrifices that Kerns and so many wounded veterans have made.
"If we can just chip away at trying to provide them with a means to go forward in their life, having given up so much at such a young age, then it's a good feeling ... to know that there is something that we can do to take care of our defenders when they come home injured."
by Tad Dickens THE ROANOKE TIMES http://www.roanoke.com/wb/xp-index
Actor/musician Gary Sinise (center) leads the Lt. Dan Band at Rooster Walk on Thursday night | Photo by Stephanie Klein-Davis, The Roanoke Times
Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise has some soul in his bones. He’s got some pop, rock and hillbilly in there, too.
Bass guitar-pumping Sinise and the rest of his Lt. Dan Band cooked up a little bit of it all Thursday night at the Blue Mountain Festival Grounds, near Martinsville. They rocked, rolled, funked and honky-tonked for a crowd estimated at 2,000, gathered to help their wounded Marine neighbor get a specially designed house by the Ararat River.
“Let’s give it up for Cpl. J.B. Kerns,” Sinise said in a shout-out to the Marine who lost parts of an arm and both legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The crowd went nuts as Kerns soaked up the moment from offstage.
The audience had plenty of musical moments to shout for, too, as the Lt. Dan Band ran through about two hours, showing wide musical versatility. And Sinise, whose acting career continues with “CSI: NY,” was at the bottom of it all, pumping solid bass lines, never missing a note and bringing thick tone from his Fender bass.
Sinise, whose Lt. Dan Taylor role in the movie “Forrest Gump” gained him an Oscar nomination and the admiration of soldiers all over the nation, has used that character recognition for good with his band, a USO tour regular.
Since last year, the band has been working to build state-of-the-art “smart homes” for Kerns and other wounded American soldiers.
His Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation are teaming with Martinsville-area businesses to build the house. They have purchased land and are in fundraising mode to build the house.
This party was a high-energy start to that campaign, in a beautiful spot. The 12-piece act kicked off the set with The Police’s “Synchronicity.” It jammed funky favorites such as Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” singer Jeff Vezain leading the way and horns blasting.
Fiddle man and vocalist Dan Meyers powered up Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Lt. Dan Band co-founder and rhythm guitarist Kimo Williams turned in a spooky vocal on Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”
Singers Molly Callahan and Julie Dutchak wailed on the Aretha Franklin classic “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)”, hugging up on an overalls-clad fellow they brought onstage.
The crowd jumped and clapped for The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” — the opening theme for “CSI: NY.” Clips from the show played as the band bashed out the song.
The show, rescheduled from earlier this year after Sinise was involved as a passenger in a car crash in the Washington area, also served as a nice start for the Fourth Annual Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival, which runs through Saturday.
Before the show, a group called Hope For The Warriors presented the foundations with a $50,000 check. Painter Scott LoBiado painted a Twin Towers scene with American flag colors in the background, then it was auctioned off. Suzanne Lacy of Axton put in the winning bid of $5,000, then donated the painting to Kerns, for the house in which he hopes to live soon.
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