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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: My brush with 'Lt. Dan'

  • I alert readers to military balls I'm aware of to give a smidgen of publicity to an event that takes a lot of work from a lot of volunteer people. But, I don't recall ever writing about one after the fact so readers can know what occurred.
    Until now.
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  • I alert readers to military balls I’m aware of to give a smidgen of publicity to an event that takes a lot of work from a lot of volunteer people. But, I don’t recall ever writing about one after the fact so readers can know what occurred.
    Until now.
    Last Saturday’s Special Operations Forces Ball was a very special one in many ways. I’ve been attending formal balls since 1978 at Fort Leavenworth, and until this one there was never a movie and TV star as the guest speaker.
    I was beyond worn out after the long day of the Second annual Collectors Display Show at the Riverfront Community Center, but when I was invited to the ball and told that “Lt. Dan” was to be the speaker, I immediately signed up.
    He played the now-immortal (in military history circles) Lt. Dan  in the movie "Forrest Gump," and was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar. Only the most ardent movie buffs know that his full movie name was Lt. Dan Taylor.
    After becoming an instant movie star, he turned to TV, and for many years has starred in some 50 episodes a year in "CSI:NY."
    He is Gary Sinise, who grew up in a working class Chicago neighborhood to become a recognized spokesman for several military organizations, primarily raising money for wounded servicemen.
    In his spare time, he runs the Lt. Dan Band that visits military bases.
    For that he has been made an Honorary Marine by the commandant of the Marine Corps, and presented the Outstanding Civilian Service Award by the U.S. Army chief of staff.
    During his superb remarks, he told of being in the Kansas City area for several months while filming a movie about Harry Truman. He said the shooting schedule didn’t leave time for sightseeing, but he’d been told by one of the ball’s hosts, Col. (Ret.) Roger Donlon, a Medal of Honor recipient in Leavenworth, that he needed to return one day to visit the National World War I Museum.
    He said he fully intends to, and then mentioned the famous poppy field of 9,000 silk poppies all visitors walk over when entering the museum, and he read the entire poem Flanders Fields by a World War I Canadian officer.
    Thanks to Terry Buckler, president of Special Forces Association Chapter XXIX,  I got to meet Sinese during an intermission and he graciously signed a ball program and box holding a tape of Forrest Gump that will be on displays at future balls. I had never met a movie star before, and it will be a while before my right hand gets washed. It won’t be easy washing just one hand, I’ll bet.
    Page 2 of 2 - And, a note to Gary that when he returns to the area to visit the world class museum: I know a Vietnam War veteran and member of the museum’s small interpreter corps who volunteers to be his tour guide. I’m ready whenever he is.
    But, he wasn’t the only famous dignitary at the ball.  This year is the 70th anniversary of the  largest military amphibious invasion in history along the coast of France, known as D-Day, or June 6.
    The officer in charge of the event, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, had three grandchildren, and one, Mary Eisenhower, was at the ball. Several years ago, when she first moved to Kansas City, I had the great pleasure of taking her on the famed historical tour of Fort Leavenworth., which she remembered.
    She’s going to Normandy, France, for events surrounding D-Day’s anniversary, and hopefully she’ll be at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Platte City in October to make remarks at the day-long commemoration of Normandy at the Veterans Salute. If so, I’ll see her again there.
    You have probably concluded by now that the ball was a great, great evening.

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