Gary Sinise Starts Mental Health Network for Veterans And First Responders
We all know Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan in the classic movie Forrest Gump. Fighting in the Vietnam War, his character is determined to die in battle like all of his ancestors, but the caring, slow-witted protagonist, Forrest (played by Tom Hanks) saves him from death much to his dismay. He is left severely disabled and eventually begins to abuse substances, likely as a result of PTSD. Forrest helps to show him he can do much more than he believed he ever could.
Though Lt. Dan got that feel-good Hollywood ending we all hope for, many real-life veterans do not. This fact is has not been lost on Sinise, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his touching role as Lt. Dan. Since playing this transformative role, he has been a champion in supporting veterans and first responders who struggle with mental health issues – support that is needed than many realize. It is estimated that 30% of first responders struggle with depression and PTSD and 1 in 3 veterans have suffered with mental health issues and brain injuries since 2001 alone.
Over the few years, Sinise has performed in close to 300 support concerts with his “Lit. Dan Band” to assist veterans, first responders, and their families. In February of 2021, he announced that he has launched The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network to help provide transformative care, treatment, and training to vets and first responders struggling with PTSD or substance abuse. Avalon will set up 20 treatment sites around the country to serve thousands of veterans, first responders, and their families.
Sinise is partnering with the Co-founders of The Home Depot, philanthropists Bernie Marcus and Arthur M. Blank, who each invested $20 million from their personal foundations to lay the groundwork for The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network.
“We’ve lost more veterans to suicide than we have on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror,” said Bernie Marcus. “Our veterans and their families put their lives on the line for us and they deserve the highest level of care available. We’ve found the perfect partner in the Gary Sinise Foundation to scale this idea into a national network that will provide cutting-edge care and improve the quality of life for our nation’s heroes in one of the most critical times in our history.”