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Gary Sinise Foundation Blog

Saluting Generations of Service Members During Military Appreciation Month

May 21st, 2020

The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.

— President Calvin Coolidge

During National Military Appreciation Month in May, the Gary Sinise Foundation pays tribute to generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guardsmen, who have raised their right hands and taken a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Men and women from all walks of life, and every pocket of the country, pursue an uncommon endeavor in the six branches of the military, whose duties are carried out on land, at sea, and below the surface, in the air, and cyberspace and outer space. Extending the ideals of a nation, all the while ensuring national security, they are called upon in times of peace and war and when humanitarian crises arise. 

Year-round and worldwide the American military achieves its mission from bases dotted throughout the country from Camp Pendleton, California, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley, Okinawa Japan, and Bagram Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Serving and honoring military members, veterans from conflicts past and present, and their families have been a guiding principle and a pillar in the mission of the Foundation since its founding in 2011.

Empowered by the support and generosity of the American people, corporate and nonprofit partners, and many organizations that contribute to the Foundation, we continue to make an outsize difference in the lives of our nation’s heroes and their families. 

At the conclusion of the month, the nation comes together on Memorial Day to honor and pay respects to the men and women killed while carrying out their military duty at home and abroad. Heading the sage advice of President Coolidge, the following stories exemplify how the Gary Sinise Foundation accomplishes its mission in service to America’s sons and daughters in uniform, never to be forgotten.

Fort Benning
After an evening storm had passed over the sky of Fort Benning, Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band took the stage on Aug. 3, 2019, to thundering applause by soldiers, their families, and those from the local community.

Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band Clear The Storm Over Fort Benning For An Evening of Honor, Gratitude, and Rock and Roll

Company after company of soldiers paraded onto a soggy Wetherby Field at Fort Benning, Georgia in the lead up to the evening’s Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band concert on Saturday, August 3, 2019. An hour before showtime, a downpour of rain had engulfed the area with intermittent flashes of lightning which threatened to postpone or even canceled the concert. With Goldstar families in attendance along with soldiers, their families, and those from the surrounding community, everyone waited in anticipation for a night of honor, gratitude and rock and roll.

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WWII veterans are paired with high school students throughout their time at the National WWII Museum.

From The Greatest Generation To Gen Z, Veterans of WWII Impart Their Legacy on High School Students During Soaring Valor

During the final week of September in 2019, the 17th trip of Soaring Valor brought together 34 veterans from the Greatest Generation and 41 upperclassmen from Del Valle High School in Travis County, Texas. Paired together during the three-day trip, they embarked on a shared journey at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans that was a deeply personal retrospective into the experience of each veteran during the Second World War. 

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Eden Pearl epitomized the very best attributes of a Marine Raider. He was beloved by his men and respected in the special forces community. When he was severely injured in Afghanistan he was in for the fight of his life with his wife, Alicia, by his side.

Alicia Pearl Defines The Meaning Behind Spiritus Invictus As She Honors Her Late Husband

Navy Corpsman Alicia Twede met the love of her life during a weekend road trip to Camp Lejune in North Carolina. It was love at first sight when she and Eden Pearl, a Marine attached to the special operations regiment known as the Raiders, who was a larger than life figure, well respected by his men, whose charm captured Alicia's heart. When Eden was critically injured during a combat operation in Afghanistan in 2009, he came back home for the fight of his life. This is the story of Alicia Pearl's pathway to becoming an ambassador of the Gary Sinise Foundation.

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The first Invincible Spirit Festival (ISF) of 2020 took place at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Recovering service members, medical staff, and their families were honored throughout the day-long festivities.

Invincible Spirit Festival at Naval Medical Center San Diego

Earlier this year on Saturday, February 15, Naval Medical Center San Diego played host to the Invincible Spirit Festival (ISF) put on by the Gary Sinise Foundation. The daylong festival was a memorable event that celebrated the heroic spirit of recovering service members and the caregivers who stand by their side. Coupled with a barbecue, classic car show, and an electrifying performance by Gary Sinise and The Lt. Dan Band, service members, veterans, medical staff, and their families were honored on behalf of a grateful nation.

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Honor, gratitude, and rock and roll is the mission of every Gary Sinise and Lt. Dan Band concert.

Gary Sinise and The Lt. Dan Band Illuminate Camp Pendleton on Friday the 13th Honor, gratitude and rock and roll is the mission of every Gary Sinise and The Lt. Dan Band concert. On Friday, September 13, 2019, under the glow of a full moon, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California held its annual Fall Carnival, a free event for Marines, their families, and the base community. Among the hundreds in attendance were the families of R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) specially adapted smart home recipients including retired Marines Brandon Dodson, Jason Ross, and Nick Kimmel.

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Jennifer Vollmer and Michael Choothesa were torn apart by the coronavirus, months after tying the knot.

Torn Apart by the Coronavirus, Newlyweds Called to Serve

Months after Connecticut Air National Guardsman Michael Choothesa married his sweetheart Jennifer Vollmer, a registered nurse, the coronavirus tore them apart. Their finances were already tight at the start of the year when the public health crisis upended their lives in March. Days after Jennifer left home to enlist her skillset at hard-hit Greenwich Hospital, considered ground zero in the state's fight against COVID-19, Michael was furloughed. Unemployed and away from his wife, contacting the Gary Sinise Foundation was Michael's last-ditch effort to make ends meet.


Written by Brandon Black