2012 National Memorial Day Concert: Gary Sinise 'very passionate' about returning

joe-mantegna-gary-sinise-pbs-325-1.jpg Gary Sinise will be where most people now expect him to be on Memorial Day weekend.

With war veteran Lt. Dan in the Oscar-winning 1994 movie "Forrest Gump" among his most famous roles, the "CSI: NY" star rejoins longtime friend and fellow CBS personality Joe Mantegna ("Criminal Minds") in Washington, D.C., to host PBS' telecast of the National Memorial Day Concert for the seventh consecutive year Sunday (May 27).

"Every year, they have it so well-organized," Sinise tells Zap2it. "Joe and I know our place, and we've been through the staging and the various aspects of it, so we just fall into it and it all comes together in the end."

Among other performers slated to appear in the event on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol: Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn; Vietnam War veteran and four-time Emmy winner Dennis Franz, in his first major television appearance since "NYPD Blue" ended; music's Trace Adkins and Daughtry; tenor Russell Watson; and the latest "American Idol" runner-up, Jessica Sanchez.

With President Obama's recent announcement that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Sinise reports, "We have a special segment totally devoted to welcoming home veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. They continue to come home from there, and we're constantly redeploying, so we have returning veterans all the time.

"We want to make sure we highlight the fact that those who have returned from Iraq are back with us," adds Sinise, "and that we celebrate and remember those who are coming back from Afghanistan."

Hopefully, Sinise's visit to Washington this weekend will go more smoothly than his previous one ... which ended with him being injured as a passenger in a car struck from behind in late March. "Everything was in doubt at the time of the accident," he says of his schedule that also has involved concerts by his Lt. Dan Band to benefit wounded warriors.

"I can't really say too much about it because I don't know what happened, only what people have told me. I was knocked out, and I don't remember the actual impact. I woke up in the emergency room and I was kind of drugged up, but I made sure that I talked to a few people. We had to cancel a certain number of things, because it was unclear how long I was going to be out of commission."

Ultimately, that spanned about a month, and Sinise -- an owner of a Emmy (for "George Wallace") and a Golden Globe Award (for "Truman") who recently was profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" for his year-round efforts to help U.S. soldiers and their families -- was determined to keep this year's National Memorial Day Concert on his itinerary.

"I feel very passionate about supporting our veterans, and not just on Memorial Day, but each and every day. We have military families that have been stretched and stressed on and off over the last 10 years, and they're going through a lot. Through the Gary Sinise Foundation, we're trying to give back to them, and any attention I can draw to that work and to other military charities is a positive thing.

"The more awareness we can raise, the better," Sinise reasons, "and that's what the National Memorial Day Concert does every year. It showcases different things that people should think about, and ways that they can help."
Photo/Video credit: PBS