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Book Review: ‘Grateful American’ By Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise is an award-winning actor who has appeared in multiple television shows and films, including “CSI: New York,” “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” “The Green Mile,” and “Of Mice And Men.” He has also made a name for himself as an advocate for veterans of the American Armed Forces. In his bestselling memoir, “Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service,” Sinise documents how a Chicago native turned Hollywood celebrity began to serve America’s heroes.

Sinise begins his story in Chicago where his father worked as a film editor. He describes his troubled school years prior to being offered a role as an actor in a local stage production. From there, a love of acting (and later directing) was born. He and some friends started the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, which featured other future Hollywood stars like John Malkovich.

After a career on stage, Sinise describes his move to Los Angeles and getting his big break, directing “Miles from Home” and later “Of Mice and Men,” in which he also starred.

As his film and stage career continued to gain him notoriety, Sinise describes meeting veterans who had returned home from the Vietnam War and seeing the negative reaction they received from the American public. This set Sinise on a path of USO tours, movies about veterans, and later, launching the Gary Sinise Foundation, which serves the men and women of the Armed Services along with their families.

With his selfless attitude and desire to help, Sinise has aided thousands of active duty soldiers and veterans through his foundation.

“Grateful American” is not the usual celebrity “tell-all” with salacious gossip and rumors galore. Instead, Sinise offers the readers an intimate look into his early life, his career, and his work for the Armed Forces. It’s a truly noteworthy memoir that sheds light on the entertainment industry and what it’s like to lead the life of a celebrity.

One of the most interesting segments of the book deals with his early days with Steppenwolf Theater Company. The successes and failures of a fledgling team of actors, directors, and producers as they go from one production to the other are truly illuminating.

Another interesting portion focuses on his advocacy for the Armed Forces. It moved my heart to read about how Sinise grew to love soldiers and wanted to help them and their families. It’s fascinating to hear how he put that compassion into such roles as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump” and in performing “The Tracers,” a stage play about veterans written by veterans.

You feel for him at his low points, you cheer for him during his highs, and you learn how one person can make a difference for his family, friends, and his country.

Gary Sinise was recently honored in a video where the participants thanked him for the work he and his foundation do. The video featured appearances by several of his fellow celebrities including Jay Leno, Robert De Niro, Patricia Heaton, Tim Allen, Ron Howard, Mayim Chaya Bialik, Rob Lowe, former co-star Tom Hanks, as well as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, several first responders, and military personnel.

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