cover image Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

Gary Sinise. Nelson, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4002-0812-8

Actor and debut author Sinise offers a heartfelt autobiography that doubles as a love letter to the U.S. military. Raised in Chicago’s suburbs, Sinise describes a somewhat aimless adolescence until an astute drama teacher encouraged him to try out for his high school’s production of West Side Story. That advice changed his life; he went on to pursue acting professionally and in 1974 cofounded the eminent Steppenwolf Theater Company. Hearing about his brothers-in-law’s Vietnam War tours of duty, and acting in 1991 in a play, Tracers, about Vietnam vets, first made Sinise feel the American military was not sufficiently appreciated. In 1994, he took the life-changing role of Lieutenant Dan in the hugely successful film Forrest Gump. Finding himself newly and widely identified with veterans by the public, he has since devoted himself to a life of service, through USO tours; benefit concerts by his cover band, the Lt. Dan Band; and the Gary Sinise Foundation, which, among other services, builds “smart homes” for disabled veterans. Sinise continually emphasizes his humility, next to actual military personnel, as someone famous “merely for playing a part in a movie,” yet his self-effacing words belie the evident depth of his commitment to helping them, which marks this winningly earnest and unabashedly patriotic story. (Feb.)