MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines, Sailors and family members were on their feet and singing along to America’s most renowned music March 12 at the Combat Center’s Sunset Cinema as the Lt. Dan Band stopped by for a three-hour performance.
The Lt. Dan Band, featuring Gary Sinise, an actor and musician who played the role of Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump,” came to the Combat Center for the second time and performed American hits for the fans, courtesy of United Service Organization.
The theater was full and most of the attendees crowded the stage from the moment Sinise came out with his bass guitar, waving his hands for all to stand up.
Last year, The Lt. Dan Band came to the Combat Center and they couldn’t help but look forward to returning to put on another hit, free concert, said Sinise.
“We had a great show last year, not only for this base, but for many others as well,” said Sinise. “At the same time, we’ve gotten tremendous feedback. It’s very rewarding when we play for service members, and most of all, their families who need just as much moral support.”
The Lt. Dan Band acquired its name from the movie, “Forrest Gump.” Gary Sinise, played Lt. Dan, a name which is known by many people, but not many people know the name Gary Sinise, he said. Since the band dubbed its name, they have gotten a great reputation around the country and established an ongoing network as well.
“The mission of the tour was to support the troops and their families,” said Jennie Ryan, a USO celebrity tour producer. “We enjoy bringing support and entertainment wherever we go. More importantly, we know this base is vital to our deployed forces. We are also aware of units who are deployed right now, and I know their families would enjoy some fun. It’s very touching to do this, and it brings out very high emotions.”
The band played an array of American tunes — from Jimi Hendrix to Alicia Keys; from The Who to Beyonce and Jay-Z. Some children, who stood in front of center stage, sang along with the singers on the stage. Some singers came off the stage to dance with some audience members and brought them on the stage. The entertainment they brought lifted spirits high, song after song. Most couldn’t help but sing along, said Thomas DeFrancisci, virtual convoy combat trainer instructor with Alpha Company, Headquarters Battalion.
“I was singing along to almost every song,” said DeFrancisci. “They are a great band and played everything so well. That is why everyone loves them and are on their feet. They play each song real well. It’s good to see a familiar face play with a big band for us. I can’t wait until they come again next year.”
Brig. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, commanding general of the Combat Center, extended his gratitude to Sinise moments before the show.
“There are a lot of pressures on the families of the deployed Marines and we thank you for giving them the opportunity to have an enjoyable night,” said Stone. “The Marines, Sailors and families need the fun because these events are sometimes rare.”
The military is in difficult times and the USO has to help keep them strong, said Sinise.
“Their families are like a backbone to individual service members. We have to keep them both strong and let them know we are grateful for their work and sacrifices.”
During the show, Sinise voiced his appreciation to the audience.
“I know it can be tough being in the military during these times, and that is why we’re here,” said Sinise. “We come tonight to tell you that we’re right here with you, and we will continue to be here with you every step of the way, in the fight, until everyone comes home. Don’t think you don’t have someone behind you, because you do.”