News & Media

Six Pack of Pop: Sinise giving back to Virginia hero at M'ville

March 27, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Actor helping raise funds to build house for wounded vet with concert, auction

Gary Sinise, accomplished actor, musician and grand marshal of this Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, answers this week's six questions.

1. Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway, wanted us to ask what you thought of all the pace-car laps he recently took you on?

Rock with a cause

The Lt. Dan Band will play a concert at Martinsville High School on March 31 as part of a fund-raiser for the construction of a specially-equipped smart house for Cpl. J.B. Kerns, who lost both legs and an arm in an explosion in Afghanistan a year ago.

Before and during the show, concert-goers will be able to bid on an amazing array of racing items, including the autographed rear bumper from Tony Stewart's winning Martinsville car last fall and an autographed driver's uniform worn by Rusty Wallace during his Last Call Tour in 2004. There will also be some non-racing items, including a script from 'CSI: NY,' signed by Sinise. All of the money raised from the auction will go to the house-building efforts for Kerns.

Sinise [laughing]: It was great. I had never done that before. I've never been to a NASCAR race, or a NASCAR race track. I've been to a lot of places, but this will be the first NASCAR race I've ever attended. I'm very much looking forward to it. It's going to be a great honor to be grand marshal of this Goody's Fast Relief 500 race. I get to say, 'Gentleman, start your engines!' It doesn't get much better than that.

2. Could you talk about the special home you're helping build for Marine Corporal Joshua Kerns, a native of Patrick County, Va., and huge NASCAR fan?

Sinise: I partnered up my Gary Sinise Foundation with the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and we're raising money all across the country in various communities where we have these various wounded warriors that we're working with. J.B. Kerns is one of them, obviously. He was severely wounded in Afghanistan and has special needs. You lose two legs and an arm and you've clearly got special needs where your life could be better if your home was adapted to those special needs.

These smart homes that we're building are specifically designed to fit the needs of these wounded warriors. ... So we're going to build J.B. one of these homes, and obviously we have to have the money to do that. My part of the partnership here is raising awareness and funds, and I do that partially through a concert in the town or city that the wounded warrior is from and wants to live in. So we'll be coming to Martinsville the night before the race and doing a concert at the high school, which was one of the biggest places we could find, to honor J.B. for what he's given the country and to try to raise a substantial amount of money to help build him this special home.

3. Tell us more about the Lieutenant Dan Band. What kind of music do you guys play?

Sinise: We play everything. We're a cover band. I put the band together to perform for our troops. I had some musicians that I played with, and I was going on USO tours and shaking hands and taking pictures and that sort of thing. After I did that about five or six times, I asked the USO if I could take the musicians with me and put on a show for the troops.

So we did our first tour in February of 2004. When I put the show together, I wanted to make sure we played something for everybody and all the troops would have a good time. So we just started playing songs everybody would recognize and could have a good time with. We play a wide variety of genres -- rock, blues, country, soul, Motown, swing, classic, contemporary. It's all over the map because it's a variety show. And we interact with the audience. It's not a show that's designed for folks to just sit back and listen to us play, but rather for them to also interact with the band.

4. So at the same time you're giving back, you're also having lots of fun doing it?

Sinise: I do have a lot of fun with it. The band is not how I make my living, obviously. I do that with my acting. ... So this is all for fun, but also to show support for causes that I believe in.

We've been averaging for the last six or seven years 13 to 15 USO shows alone per year, and then we do several other military-oriented shows. We also do concerts for a lot of organizations and groups I've been involved with over the years, mostly designed to support our defenders and our first responders. That's what the Gary Sinise Foundation is designed to do, to lend a helping hand to those who have given so much to us.

5. Between that and your television show and movies, when do you sleep?

Sinise: It's a busy time, for sure. ... I'm traveling all the time and have been for about the last 10 years, since Sept. 11 [2001], trying to do some things to help support these military families who give so much of themselves and have been deployed over and over and over again. It's hard on these families, and we've unfortunately lost a lot of Americans in service.

6. Supporting the military is something you obviously have in common with NASCAR, and you've also teamed up with the sport to give added value to this weekend's concert in Martinsville, haven't you?

Sinise: Yes, there will be a silent auction that you can attend if you just buy a ticket to the concert. We're hoping a lot of those race fans in the area come to the concert to honor this local hero, J.B. Kerns, and help him raise money so we can build this house for him. And NASCAR has been fantastic about donating items that race fans can bid on. So I hope people come out and enjoy themselves and show some support at the same time for this kid who gave so much for his country.