Think of it as "CSI: USO," if you will. When he's not solving crimes as Det. Mac Taylor on CSI: NY, Gary Sinise can often be found touring with the USO, entertaining U.S. service members around the globe with his Lt. Dan Band, the rock group named after his salty Vietnam-veteran character in Forrest Gump. On Sunday, Sinise lands in Washington, D.C., to cohost the National Memorial Day Concert (airing at 8 pm/ET, on PBS), featuring performances by Josh Turner, CeCe Winans, Natalie Cole and the National Symphony Orchestra. TVGuide.com spoke with Sinise about his impassioned work with the troops.
TVGuide.com: You're cohosting the National Memorial Day Concert for a second time. What brought you back?
Gary Sinise: The first time I did [the concert] was [two years ago], when my band played and I did a little narration. It was great. I said, "If there's anything you need me for next year, let me know." And they asked me to cohost. I'm part of the family now, I think.
TVGuide.com: You do a lot of work with the USO, both on your own and with your Lt. Dan Band. How'd you get involved with the organization?
Sinise: I started doing tours on my own in 2003. I've been to Iraq a couple of times and am going again this year. I was in Afghanistan last year. After a few of those, I said to the USO folks, "I play music with some guys. Why don't you let me take a band?" And they set it up. I called my buddies and said, "We'd better start rehearsing, because we're going on tour." [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: What do you hear most from the troops you meet?
Sinise: "Thanks for coming." Rarely does any service member who I meet complain about what they're doing. They feel like they're accomplishing something. There are other people who go out and say, "Oh, the troops are all pissed off and they hate the war and they hate this and that...," but that's not my experience. And I've been to probably more bases around the world and around the country than most politicians.
TVGuide.com: We hear so much about supporting the troops. What can the average person do to help?
Sinise: There are dozens of websites and organizations that have been started. The Defense Department brought [them] together under the umbrella of a website called AmericaSupportsYou.mil. It's very easy [to get involved] if you are interested enough to want to do something.
TVGuide.com: This year's concert devotes a segment to wounded soldiers. With more than 23,000 wounded in Iraq, do you think there's enough attention paid to them?
Sinise: There are a lot of people working hard on their behalf. But the care our veterans get after they come back from war... it will never be enough. The government can never do enough, and it should. If we're going to ask people to go into harm's way for very little money and then we forget about them, that does nothing to strengthen our country. We all remember what it was like when our Vietnam veterans came home from war — and we can never let that happen again.
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