Soldiers put their lives on the line every day to defend their country, and while it’s easy to congratulate them after a victory, many veterans are overlooked and neglected after leaving active service. However, the Gary Sinise Foundation makes a concerted effort to safeguard and look after their welfare long after their war days are over.
Founded in 2011 by the actor of the same name, the Gary Sinise Foundation is a veteran’s service organization and charity that develops programs, offers services and organizes events to help and honor wounded veterans of all branches of the military. The non-profit charity has raised more than $194 million for wounded veterans, first responders and their families throughout its history.
Sinise is best known for his role as Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump,” playing a veteran who returns from the Vietnam War with his legs amputated. Sinise said the role changed his life.
“Shortly after the movie opened, I was contacted by the Disabled American Veterans Organization inviting me to their national convention where they wanted to present me with an award,” Sinise said. “I met hundreds if not thousands of people who were not playing a part in a movie.”
Sinise’s mission was to “extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”
In line with this mission, Sinise’s foundation partnered with Veteran’s United Home Loans in 2020 to give back to America’s men and women in uniform in the most meaningful way.
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In November 2020, Sinise partnered with Veterans United Home Loans for their “Make It Mean More” initiative. For the initiative, the company sought to pay off the mortgages of army veterans and on Nov. 11 that same year, it announced that, in conjunction with Veterans Day, it would donate $25 to pay off housing debts every time someone tweets “Thank you for your service.”
“Because saying thank you is great, but together we can #MakeItMeanMore,” it said in announcing the initiative.
“Together, we can repay the debts of those we are forever indebted to,” it added.
Later the same day of the announcement, Veterans United announced it had already “raised nearly $1.5 MILLION to pay off # Veterans’ homes” only halfway through Veterans Day. Altogether, it had managed to raise $1,447,600 from 57,904 tweets. Even more encouraging was the fact that, in response to Veterans United’s tweet, even more people began responding with “Thank you for your service.” Many also praised the company’s ingenuity.
“This is so amazing that you are doing this for our veterans! Congratulations to all who are chosen as winners!” wrote one commenter.
Among the lucky winners of the campaign was Navy veteran Bill Day. According to Times Union, Day, who had served in the Navy since 1988 and had been stationed in areas such as the Persian Gulf, Mexico and Central America during his service, bought his first house in 2018 in Colonie, New York. Day still had $168,000 on his house mortgage when he was contacted by Veterans United, asking if he was interested in filming a commercial with them. Happy to oblige, Day said yes. Little did he know what he was truly in for.