“Forrest Gump” actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band are preparing for a free concert in The Villages to honor veterans and first responders.
The event, which is being put on by Villagers for Veterans, will be held Sunday, Oct. 27 at Lake Sumter Landing. The festivities will kick off at 3 p.m. and feature the popular Scooter the DJ, a Forrest Gump impersonator, food trucks and other attractions. There will be a special seating area for veterans and first responders and those attending are encouraged to come early and bring chairs.
Sinise and his band, named after the character he played in the 1994 hit movie “Forrest Gump” alongside fellow award-winning actor Tom Hanks, will take the stage at 7 p.m. The band was founded in Chicago in 2004 by Sinise and Kimo Williams to entertain troops, perform at USO shows and raise money to help disabled veterans.
“We are so excited to have Gary and the Lt. Dan Band here in The Villages,” said Marie Bogdonoff, president of Villagers for Veterans, who worked hard to have Sinise come back to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown following a visit in February when he spent some emotional moments with area veterans and military families. “We want veterans and first responders to be a big part of the event.”
Bogdonoff said Sinise and his 13-piece band will perform on a special stage that his crew will construct at Lake Sumter Landing the night before the event.
“We really don’t have a venue in The Villages that’s big enough for them,” she said. “So, the square was the perfect place.”
The 64-year-old Sinise, also known for his roles in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” and the hit television drama “CSI: New York,” made quite a splash in his earlier visit to the Savannah Center. During that trip, he talked about his best-selling book, “Grateful American: A Journey From Self to Service.” Each member of the audience received a copy, which details Sinise’s life story, from troubled kid to Hollywood star to activist for veterans.
Sinise’s first visit also was connected to Villagers for Veterans. Bogdonoff said she had met him four years earlier and had been trying to get him to come to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown ever since.
“He’s done so much for veterans,” she said after his February appearance. “Most of all, he shows veterans love and they feel the same way about him.”
The most touching moment of Sinise’s February talk came when Gold Star Mother and Villager Kim Greenberg personally thanked him during a question-and-answer session.
“It means so much,” she said.
Sinise, whose foundation had sponsored a Disney World vacation for 1,722 Gold Star families, also was moved. He came to the front of the stage, knelt down and embraced Greenberg. Her son, U.S. Army Spc. Nick Idalski, 23, of Crown Point, Ind., was killed in combat in Iraq on June 21, 2005.
For more information about the upcoming concert, visit Villagersforveterans.org or call Bogdonoff at (516) 220-5068.