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Actor Gary Sinise Sends 1,750 Gold Star Family Members To Disney World

When Forrest Gump runs into Lt. Dan again in New York City years after the Vietnam War, Lt. Dan is mired in (understandable) sadness & self pity & proudly brags that he is “…living off the government tit! Sucking it dry!

..And that’s pretty much how it goes until he finds his purpose & sea legs (even though Lt. Dan ain’t got no legs, of course).

The opposite would be true of his real-life counterpart, Gary Sinise. For decades the actor has dedicated his time and resources to honor & assist first responders, military members, & their families.

The Gary Sinise Foundation supports a wide range of causes like R.I.S.E., which builds ‘specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded heroes and provides home modifications, mobility devices, and adapted vehicles to injured, wounded, ill, and/or aging heroes’. The foundation also sponsors mentorship retreats for vets, provides outreach through education, entertainment & the arts, and also secures grants, relief, & equipment for first responders.

Just this past weekend another one of Sinise’s initiatives kicked off for the children of military members who have passed; The Snowball Express.

From CBS Los Angeles:

Family members of fallen armed forces members are celebrating the holidays in a very special way, thanks to the Snowball Express.

The annual event, organized by the Gary Sinise Foundation, packs 15 planes with Gold Star families who are treated to a trip to Disney World.

“Each one of these children who are going on these airplanes have lost a parent in military services – either combat related or illness or unfortunately suicide sometimes. We wanna take care of these kids and make sure they know we don’t forget,” actor and director Gary Sinise told KCAL9’s Joy Benedict.

About 1,700 people from 15 locations across the country board the Snowball Express on their way to a 5-night vacation in Orlando, Florida.

Santa Claus landed at LAX in style Saturday morning, arriving in a helicopter with Mrs. Claus.

Children had a chance to take pictures with St. Nick and get presents.

Desmond, whose father Army Sgt. Myles Penix died in 2016, and his mom were first in line to meet Santa.

“I [didn’t know] that he would be here in a helicopter – I thought he was gonna be jumping out of there in a parachute,” he said.

Desmond’s mom Jade Penix said the trip, which they participated in last year, is a chance for both children and parents to enjoy themselves and heal during a difficult time of year.

“It’s just important ’cause of all of the bonding that we get to do. He gets to find friends who are just like him, and I get to find ones that have lost just like me,” she said. “It’s easier when you find people who’ve gone through the same thing. So it’s an amazing experience. All of the different tributes they have, and all of the different balloon releases where I get to write a message to my husband; it’s amazing.”

Welp, Gary Sinise is a goddamn saint (and an honorary Marine btw) & I can’t think of a warmer note to end a freezing Monday on.

The holidays are fast approachin’ & can be tough for anyone, but I know it’s especially difficult for those who are missing loved ones. This ongoing war has impacted our country in so many lasting ways that we don’t always think about. I hope this time down at Disney lets the kids just be kids, and the other family members soak in the sunshine & joy while they make connections with others who understand the sacrifices made.