'Forrest Gump' actor Sinise to raise money for vet

Associated Press Published: May 21, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Actor Gary Sinise, known for playing Vietnam War amputee Lt. Dan in the film "Forrest Gump," is keeping his promise to raise money for a southwest Virginia Marine who lost his limbs while on a mine sweep in Afghanistan.

After canceling a March benefit concert due to a car accident, the star of TV's "CSI: New York" is set to perform with his band, named after his fictional Lt. Dan character, in Martinsville on Thursday. The cover band's performance is part of a fundraiser to help build a specially equipped home for 22-year-old Patrick County Marine Cpl. J.B. Kerns, who lost his right arm below the elbow and both his legs below the knees in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011 during his third tour of duty.

The 57-year-old Sinise's foundation, along with others like the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, have helped build several such "smart homes" for wounded veterans across the country as part of an ongoing efforts to support U.S. military personnel and first responders. The foundations partnered to create the Building For America's Bravest program to build the homes.

Nearly 1,450 military personnel have been treated at military facilities for amputations during post-9/11 operations, and more than 435 have multiple amputations, according to the Department of Defense. And the department says that those wounded in battle now have a 50 percent better chance of surviving than any previous war because of improved armor, better medical training and emergency care.

"These are young guys that have been blown to bits and they've given a lot for their country and they're going to have to go for the rest of their lives with a real challenge," Sinise said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We're trying to do as much as we can for as many of them as possible."

Sinise hopes his fundraising efforts can give those wounded, like Kerns, a "place that is adapted to their needs so that they know for the rest of their lives they have a place to call home."

The smart homes are custom designed to meet the needs of the amputee and typically feature energy-efficient appliances, along with automated systems to help them handle everyday tasks, said John Hodge, a spokesman for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Even cabinets and drawers can be opened and closed by pushing a button or an application on an iPad. The costs for the homes range from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the location and features, Hodge said.

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