Atlanta Music Scene

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Gary Sinise & Lt. Dan Band play at Georgia Aquarium Saturday to help veterans

It's been said that all actors secretly want to be musicians and all musicians secretly want to be actors.

Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise ("Apollo 13," TV's " CSI: NY") has achieved the dream. What's more, he uses his band's performances to help provide emotional and financial support to one particular, very important audience.

"I would say 95 percent of what the band does is in support  of our veterans, the military community and first responders," Sinise, 61, said of the Lt. Dan Band, in which he plays electric bass. "That was the mission of the band that I started."

LtDanBand Performing - Amy Kris.jpg
(Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band perform. Photo courtesy of

And (you should pardon the music pun) he really backs it up. On Saturday night, the Lt. Dan Band — named for the iconic soldier-turned-disabled-Vietnam-vet character that Sinise played to Oscar-nominated perfection in "Forrest Gump" — will perform in concert at Pemberton Place, between the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola. Tickets are $34, with 100 percent of the proceeds to be split between the Georgia Aquarium's Veteran Immersion Program and the Gary Sinise Foundation, which is entirely devoted to assisting veterans, members of the military, first responders and their families (Purchase tickets here).

In addition, The Home Depot Foundation and The Marcus Foundation are teaming up to provide complimentary concert tickets to veterans and active military personnel and their families. If you're interested, email for the complimentary coupon code.

Sinise, who's now starring in "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" on CBS, fits about 30-40 Lt. Dan Band performances into his busy schedule each year, playing everywhere from military bases and USO shows to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the recent Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. But the Chicago area native who got his first guitar in the fourth grade can't help singing the praises of this Atlanta appearance as something uniquely special, thanks to its setting and its local partners.

"First of all, we have a very special relationship with Billi and Bernie Marcus," Sinise said of the Home Depot co-founder and his wife, whose passion and money not only helped build the Georgia Aquarium; both their namesake foundation and the Home Depot Foundation have provided critical support to his own foundation's R.I.S.E. program, Sinise said.

"We want to empower our wounded heroes and support their independence in their own homes," Sinise said of the program that by the end of 2016, will have built 46 specially adapted "smart" homes for severely wounded veterans around the country. "One of our friends who's close to Bernie introduced me to him, and they have just been extraordinarily great supporters of this work."

The Lt. Dan Band is made up of professional musicians whom Sinise pays himself or through sponsors' money ("I play for free," chuckled Sinise, who plows all other monies raised right back into his foundation's programs, which do everything from providing equipment and training to first responders to bringing World War II veterans and their guardians to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans and recording their oral histories). It's a classic cover band: Saturday night's show will likely feature about 25 songs that are "all over the map" from classic and contemporary rock, pop and blues to country, Motown and swing, he said.

Steps away from the concert site, the Georgia Aquarium since 2008 has welcomed more than 1,300 military personnel who have been "physically, emotionally, or mentally wounded" and their guests to its Veterans Immersion Program. They get to dive and swim alongside whale sharks, manta rays and other large creatures in the 6.3 million gallon "tank," Ocean Voyager Built by the Home Depot.

Sinise said he's heard some veterans may swim in the tank while he's in town. Will he take the plunge, too?

"I'm going to Washington D.C., West Point, San Diego . . . ," Sinise ticked off some upcoming stops on his packed itinerary. "I don't want to do anything to jeopardize that (by) swallowing something fishy."

"Lt. Dan" chuckled again.

"I always have to look out for the mission."

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About the Author

Jill Vejnoska has spent two decades as a news and features reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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