Two decades ago, the experience of portraying injured Vietnam vet Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the award-winning film Forrest Gump had a life-changing impact on actor Gary Sinise. And ever since, serving wounded veterans has been an important part of his life.
To help them, he started his own charity, the Gary Sinise Foundation. In February, he gave a group of 50 injured veterans the vacation of a lifetime — taking them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland and Hollywood. While at the amusement park, a Disney guide made sure that the veterans (who hailed from Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland; Virginia’s Fort Belvoir; and San Diego’s Naval Medical Center) could enjoy the rides without having to wait in any of those winding, endless lines.
Jody Nelson, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, participated in the trip. Now suffering from stage-four cancer of the lung, liver and brain, he brought his wife, Trinity — also an injured veteran — and his two-year-old son. He told ABC News, “They provided an experience that’s just unbelievable. Doctors told me I might live this many years or that many years, but I’m just going to fight it every day and every day that I’m able to spend time with my son is a miracle.”
The next day, Sinise brought the group to Paramount, where they had the special opportunity to meet Mykelti Williamson, who played Bubba in Forrest Gump, and one of the biggest movie stars in the world: Tom Hanks. “The whole purpose is to send them home smiling,” Sinise told ABC News. “They should know that they’re appreciated and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”