Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna, two of Hollywood's biggest patriots, are in Washington, D.C., to host the 25th annual Memorial Day concert on the west lawn of the Capitol.
It should be a given that actors, writers, and directors would appreciate the freedoms we enjoy here in America, but too often Hollywood seems to prefer celebrating those who are outspoken against American values, ideals, and even our service members. It's dumbfounding considering that history teaches us artists are often the first to be silenced by totalitarian governments.
Sinise and Mantegna are two midwesterners who grew up with an understanding of the sacrifices members of our military have made to keep our nation free.
I had the honor of interviewing both of these patriots this week about the Memorial Day concert scheduled for Sunday night. The concert draws hundreds of thousands to the mall and it is free to the public.
I asked Sinise about his special connection to the troops and he said it really all started with his iconic performance as Lt. Dan in the film Forrest Gump. He has now started a foundation specifically designed to help wounded veterans, especially amputees.
"We have a whole new generation of Lt. Dan's out there and we'll highlight one of them at the concert this weekend," he told me.
Sinese has said that his appreciation for Memorial Day goes back to his childhood in Illinois: "When I was a kid, I loved the Memorial Day parade. Especially saluting the soldiers who had done so much for our country. I was too young to understand the words ‘sacrifice' and ‘tribute,' but I knew what a hero was. And that's what our service members have always been to me."
Mantegna also grew up in Chicago; having military members in his family instilled a special appreciation for those who have sacrificed for our country:
"I had a lot of military in my family and they all came back from conflicts so there was no immediate attachment to Memorial Day in terms of a day of personal remembrance," Mantegna said. "And yet, once I did that concert I realized Memorial Day is not just a holiday, it's our most important holiday because of the sacrifices all these men and women made throughout our history."
There's plenty to complain about when it comes to some of the bone-headed, unpatriotic utterances from many of the members of the Hollywood community. But here are two examples of humble men who understand what it means to be truly free, and, sadly, what the cost of that freedom has been.
I know from personal experience there are more men and women like this in Hollywood. They just don't get the attention they deserve.