Lt. Dan Band rocks Grafenwoehr - U.S. Army - FMWRC - 81574-2010-07-29-160709
Lt. Dan Band rocks Grafenwoehr
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - It was the perfect patriotic setting: the smell of grilled hamburgers permeated the air, the crowd dressed in a sea of red, white and blue, a dog barked at two kids passing a Frisbee across the Main Post parade field and bare feet danced to music blaring from the stage. It was the perfect American celebration, well, except that it happened to be located in Germany.
But on this Independence Day, Americans and Germans joined forces to celebrate the great country of America; what it stands for, what freedoms we have and bring to others and our vast history of good ol' American rock-n-roll.
To showcase this genre of music, Emmy Award-winning actor Gary Sinise along with his entourage of musical friends (12 members in all) took to the stage and entertained more than 4,000 Soldiers, family and community members, July 4, and provided a look inside the musical stylings of the Lt. Dan Band.
Although Sinise denies any parallels to the title character, he stated that after years of touring overseas to visit the men and women of the armed forces, Soldiers would notoriously call him "Lt. Dan."
"There were some people, I think, that didn't know my real name," said Sinise, in a graveling tone. "But I thought the name had a nice ring to it and since Lt. Dan was a military man himself, the name stuck."
Sinise played second fiddle to Tom Hanks in his infamous role as Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump," but for many fans, Sinise remains in the forefront.
"He has such a passion for military service," said family member Sheila McIntire. "This is a great tribute to (Soldiers and family members). All of the work he does really makes a difference."
Sinise has devoted countless hours to aiding military veterans and currently serves as the national spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. He also started the grass-roots program "Operation International Children," an organization that collects and sends school supplies to Soldiers overseas for distribution to schools in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations.
Additionally, when he's not solving crimes as Detective Mac Taylor on the hit show "Crime Scene Investigation: New York, (CSI:NY)," Sinise takes his talents on the road, touring with the United Service Organizations (USO), playing free show for thousands of Soldiers and family members every year.
"A lot of people have their reasons for giving back and lending a hand to the military community and they give through various service endeavors," said Spc. Marcus Kranz, U.S Forces Customs Europe. "People like Gary Sinise help out by entertaining and lifting morale of the community."
The energy was high as the Lt. Dan Band performed a two-hour set of soul-funk-pop-country-blues-rock with a bit of "Bugle Boy" thrown in.
Sinise provided the downbeat playing the bass and the individual talents of each band member reverberated through the crowd.
"They are all talented musicians," said family member Sarah Krantz. "Their sound is great and you can tell it's not just a vanity project. They are having fun on stage and working together to put on a great show."
From Jeff Vezain's electric stage presence, Mitch Paliga's saxophone serenade, Danny Gottlieb's constant drum beat, Dan Myers' extraordinary violin playing and the soothing sounds of numerous vocalists including Julie Dutchak and Mari Anne Jayme, the Lt. Dan Band pulled out all the stops to provide a foot-stomping, adrenaline-pumping show.
All of the band members are veterans of the stage with vast experience within the music industry. Electric guitarist Kimo Williams, however, is a veteran both on and off the stage.
In 1970, Williams was sent to Vietnam and assigned to a combat engineer company that built roads and cleared land in the jungle. To deal with the stress of combat he took to the guitar and started practicing, hoping to play like his hero Jimi Hendrix.
An Army entertainment director heard him playing at one of the service clubs and suggested he form a band to perform for the troops in the field. For the next two months, September through November 1970, Williams and his band "The Soul Coordinators" traveled to remote fighting areas throughout Vietnam. They often set up their drums and amps in the deep jungle mud with their music at times competing with artillery fire.
"I was armed with a guitar and an M-16," said Williams. "Depending on what was happening, I'd use one or the other."
Williams' ability to tell a story, sing and wail on the guitar pleased the crowd, garnering numerous cheers and a standing ovation. Many in the audience sang along as Williams played "Fire," an arrangement that would surely make Hendrix proud.
Turning the attention to the audience, vocalists Dutchak and Jayme pulled Pvt. 2 Chris Maloof, 172nd Infantry Brigade, on stage and serenaded him with a sultry rendition of "Natural Woman," as the strapping Soldier swooned over the singers under a shy grin and rosy cheeks.
The show came to end and the crowd screamed for more. The band listened and played a 10-song encore ending with show stomping "God Bless the U.S.A.," much to the delight of spectators.
"I can't think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than being with the men and women of our armed forces," said Sinise. "The band and I are always happy to hit the road with the USO. We love performing for troops, because their sacrifices make it possible for the rest of us to live our lives. They deserve so much more, and this is just one way for us to let them know we appreciate what they do."
USO and TriWest Health Care Alliance sponsored the event with support from Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr.
Gary Sinise kept the downbeat on his electric bass while entertaining a crowd of more than 4,000 during a 4th of July concert with this band, the Lt. Dan Band.
U.S. Army photo by Molly Hayden, USAG Grafenwoehr.
Cleared for public release, not for commerical use, attribution requested.