Gary Sinise and Lt. Dan Band Rock Veterans on Memorial Day Weekend

Gary Sinise plays bass in the Lt. Dan Band - Feature photo © 2023 Donna Balancia


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gary Sinise reunited with “Forrest Gump” co-star Mykelti Williamson for a Memorial Day weekend performance of the Lt. Dan Band at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

The free Friday night concert, “Welcome Home: A Celebration of Vietnam Veterans,” honored those who served, and brought together veterans to hear some great music to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Gary Sinise said he's honored to play concerts for the Vietnam veterans - All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia
Gary Sinise said he’s honored to play concerts for the Vietnam veterans – All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia

The Lt. Dan Band, named after the character Lieutenant Dan, whom Sinise famously portrayed in the 1994 film, “Forrest Gump,” is one of the most rockin’ cover bands around. The ensemble includes a brass section, three backup singers, lead guitarist, lead singer, drummer and keyboardist, all of whom take the cue from Sinise, who plays a pretty wicked bass guitar.

And for this special free concert for Vietnam veterans, Sinise was joined by Williamson, who played fellow vet, Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, in “Forrest Gump.” Williamson plays the harmonica in real life and stepped on stage to lead a harp-heavy, modern rendition of the classic “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Mykelti Williamson reunites with Gary Sinise for Lt. Dan Band show - All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia
Mykelti Williamson reunites with Gary Sinise for Lt. Dan Band show – All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia

The popularity of “Forrest Gump” spawned a range of products, including the successful Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a worldwide restaurant franchise. But it also gave Sinise a recognizable character he could leverage his work for veterans through The Gary Sinise Foundation.

The Lt. Dan Band performs a wide range of tunes, everything from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to The Who, Journey, and lot of Chicago songs, giving a well-deserved spotlight to the superior brass section. There was quite a bit of audience engagement with “Sweet Caroline” and “Hey Jude.”

Mykel T. Williamson on harmonica - All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia
Mykel T. Williamson was reunited with Gary Sinise and played harmonica – All photos (c) 2023 Donna Balancia

Sinise is known for his work in movies and TV and there was no shortage of those clips showing on the screens above the packed, historical Constitution Hall. Joining Sinise were emcee Joe Mantegna, a fellow actor most recently known for “Criminal Minds,” members of the Gary Sinise Foundation, and veterans with amazing stories.

Constitution Hall in Washington, DC was filled with veterans – Photo (c) 2023 Donna Balancia

But the most touching aspect of the concert — the 547th concert the Lt. Dan Band has played, Sinise said — is the celebration of the veterans: Those who were on hand and those who are no longer with us. As was mentioned, those U.S. soldiers shipped off to Vietnam were fighting a very unpopular war and upon their return, they bore the burden of an angry public, who, in many cases, did not separate the boys from the cause.

Sinise said he is “honored” to play for the Vietnam veterans. And there were plenty of veterans, families, and friends on hand to make new and lasting memories.

Sammy Davis’ harmonica was a beacon for those in Vietnam – Photo (c) by Donna Balancia
Veterans had a get together prior to the Lt. Dan Band concert in Washington, DC – Balancia photo
Lovely Rita, volunteer at the Lt. Dan Band concert in DC – Photo by Balancia
Those who served – Photo by Donna Balancia
The Gary Sinise Foundation volunteers – Photo by Donna Balancia
Joe Mantegna – Photo by Donna Balancia
Donna from Gary Sinise Foundation – Balancia photo
Steve Amerson,. America’s Tenor – Photo by Balancia
Lee Ellis, POW – Photo by Donna Balancia

For more information on The Gary Sinise Foundation go here.

Check out the Lt. Dan Band here: