Actor Gary Sinise — a longtime supporter of veterans' causes whose 1994 portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the film "Forrest Gump" shined a national spotlight on the plight of wounded service people — has been named the 2018 Tournament of Roses Grand Marshal.
As grand marshal, Sinise will ride in the 129th Rose Parade on New Year's Day and participate in the pre-game celebration of the Rose Bowl game that follows.
Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet announced the selection in a ceremony Monday, connecting Sinise's humanitarian work on behalf of veterans to this year's theme, "Making a Difference."
"It's really all about those people in each of our communities …who give of themselves quietly and unselfishly, doing for others without desire for reward or recognition but just because it's the kind thing to do," he said. "Gary Sinise is absolutely one of those people."
Sinise's philanthropic efforts date back to the early 1980s, when he supported local Vietnam veterans' groups throughout Greater Chicago and co-founded the Veterans' Night Preview Series at the Steppenwolf Theatre, which provides free dinner and dress rehearsal performances of its subscription series plays.
The 62-year-old actor has volunteered for the USO and entertained troops around the world with performances by his Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band, in which he plays bass. In 2011, he created the Gary Sinise Foundation, which offers support programs and services to active duty military personnel, veterans, first responders and their loved ones.
Sinise received a Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 from George W. Bush in a White House ceremony. In 2012, he was made an honorary chief petty officer by the U.S. Navy. The following year, he was pinned an honorary Marine by the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and was awarded the U.S. Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
On Monday, the former Pasadena resident thanked the Tournament of Roses for this latest honor.
"I feel blessed that I've been able to take this success I've had in the movie and television business and do something positive with it to make a difference in the lives of our veterans, our active duty service members and our Gold Star families," he said. "If shining a little spotlight on me Jan. 1 can shine a spotlight on them, to help me make a difference in their lives, I'm very, very grateful to do that."