The men and women who protect and defend this country are pretty amazing people.
And, as it turns out, so are some of the actors who portray them in movies.
Rarely is there more heroism, more patriotism, more honor or more camaraderie squeezed into one room than there was Thursday night in Augusta at the 319th Transportation Company Vietnam Veterans dinner.
It was an incredible opportunity for the close-knit veterans of the Augusta-area Vietnam-era unit to tell their story, to share some memories -- some comical, some traumatic -- to exhibit their special bond with each other -- and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Care Project.
Mike Dickerson, a veteran of the 319th, might have been enough of a treat for the overflow crowd -- with his wry and moving rendition of the unit's service in Vietnam. But Laurie Ott, one of the founders of the local Wounded Warrior Care Project, also eloquently articulated what the night was about and noted some of the many heroic wounded -- and their caregivers -- in the audience.
Then there was retired Sgt. Maj. Tom Morrissey of the Illinois National Guard, who was on the way to possibly losing both hands or arms after an attack in Afghanistan -- but who was saved that fate when someone in the chain of events recommended a doctor at Fort Gordon's Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Morrissey also was cared for at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center's "Active Duty Rehab" unit -- an intensive, one-of-a-kind facility that is helping wounded troops get back on their feet, flesh and bone or otherwise.
Yet, the crowd was atwitter with anticipation about the keynote speaker that Morrissey had somehow arranged: actor Gary Sinise -- a tireless advocate and friend to U.S. veterans and active-duty troops all over the world.
Tireless doesn't cover it. After a full day of touring the Active Duty unit and appearing at Fort Gordon, Sinise worked an admiring crowd of civilians and troops for a grueling four hours, before and after the dinner at the Richmond on Greene Hotel. He posed, chatted and spent as much time with each person as possible -- and didn't stop until the room of nearly 400 had emptied out.
This guy is the absolute real deal.
His service to our troops took off big-time after his role as a disabled veteran in the movie Forrest Gump . But even before that, Sinise had been impelled to make up for a time in which America failed its Vietnam veterans -- and, as he sheepishly admitted, he once attended a war protest just to get out of class. Time spent with his veteran brother-in-law, as well as a stage play put on by veterans of the war -- which, after seeing, he insisted on ultimately helping to produce at his Chicago theater -- put the love of our Armed Forces deep within him.
Note to Mr. Sinise: It's utterly mutual. Many times, Americans misspend their abundant adulation on those wholly unworthy of it. This is not one of those times. In sharing so much of himself so sincerely and completely with our wounded troops, Gary Sinise is doing nothing short of helping them heal.
He is a model for us all. As an all-volunteer U.S. military fights in three war zones today, these men and women give everything they have -- often imperceptibly to most of us. It isn't too much to ask to keep their sacrifice in your mind and heart.
But on occasion, such as on Thursday night, you can even reach out and touch it.