I’m no one special – far from it if my greatest fears are to be realized – but I’ve been blessed enough to have some special things happen to me and my loved ones. I got to meet Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance which, despite all the torment I endure from some friends, is one of my favorite bands. He signed his comic book and talked to me for about a minute and it was nice. My friend Maeve had set the whole thing up for my 19th birthday and it meant the world to me; still does, actually.
Melanie and I traveled to Maine to vacation – but really, I was mildly stalking Stephen King – and we got to see the real Pet Sematary and meet incredibly nice people.
I visited the location where “Friday the 13th” was filmed.
Oh, and this one time, I saw Stephen Colbert walking out of a hardware store in Montclair, New Jersey. I also saw him at Church for Palm Sunday.
But of all the random and cool things that I have been blessed enough to experience, last night was the most amazing.
Those closest to me, but particularly my college roommates, know of my love for Gary Sinise. He stars in “CSI: New York” and most famously portrayed Lieutenant Dan in the movie, “Forrest Gump.” He also portrayed Stu Redman in the television miniseries “The Stand,” based upon one of my favorite books of all time by my favorite author of all time, Stephen King. Basically, Gary and I have a history in the sense that I have been stalking – again, mildly so – him for years.
It was genuinely serendipitous how the whole thing came together. The other night, as referenced in my most recently posted short story, my family and I watched a documentary about Sinise’s band entitled, “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.” It was incredibly moving as it showcased the band’s dedication to honoring veterans, wounded warriors, first responders and those who gave all through their performances and visits overseas. My father and I watched in awe as two of the female singers pulled a young serviceman on stage and serenaded him, hugging him and cooing in an endearing and yet incredibly embarrassing display of affection. We cried as Sinise visited family after family, location after location and spent an impressive majority of his time and money in honoring those who serve.
I turned to my dad and said, “How great would it be if he could perform at the fundraiser for Nick?”
Dad laughed and said, “Yeah, he could pull me on stage.”
What started as a joke turned serious when I did some research on Sinise’s foundation, which monetarily and charitably aided veterans, first responders and their families. I wrote a letter, requesting the foundation participate in Nick’s fundraiser but unfortunately, the request was not timely enough as Sinise is booked solid through the end of the year. I clicked around and discovered that the Lieutenant Dan Band was playing at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson – only thirty minutes from home – in four days.
My mind began to put together a wild kind of scheme – if Dad wore his uniform and we both wore our pins commemorating Nick’s memory, then maybe, just maybe we could get his attention and he could sign a DVD copy of “Forrest Gump” for us to raffle off. Hell, maybe we could even meet him and take pictures. It seemed doubtful, but it was worth a shot. I bought the tickets and told Dad it was a done deal, we were going.
The day of the concert I slept in later than I wanted. Dad and I were rushed, as he came home from work and immediately showered, shaved and changed into his uniform. He had me type up a letter and enclose a flyer detailing the specifics of Nick’s fundraiser so that if we couldn’t speak with Sinise, we could at least pass along a letter … possibly. As I went to the mall to pick up a copy of the movie, Dad decided to go ahead to the park where he was not charged admission, got the letter and flyer to Sinise, made friends with the New York Fire Department and then met Gary Sinise.
I shit you not (pardon my French).
When I showed up, the band was doing sound check, so I only got to watch from the stage. As I had the camera, the merchandise for autographing and the pen, I was nervous we wouldn’t get a second chance. I gave my dad a real hard time about meeting Sinise without me and blamed him for botching the entire operation. It was in jest though because as the day progressed, I met amazing men and women who answered the call on September 11th and have continued to do so ever since. I met first responders, firemen, veterans and other heroes and there were several times I could not hold back the tears. The stories I heard and the characters I met were priceless and had I not met Sinise, the day would have been a godsend for other reasons.
When the concert started, I loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the band sounded amazing and the crowd was into it. Then my dad WAS pulled up on stage and serenaded. Then we DID meet Gary Sinise backstage and I do not exaggerate when I say he is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, celebrity or otherwise. He talked to us for a solid five minutes; he bonded with Dad about being in Iraq and the crazier aspects of the war, and he suffered through my gushing. I talked about The Stand and “CSI: New York.” I made him sign everything we brought and hugged him more times than he was probably comfortable with. But he did it all with a smile and was never anything but gracious and friendly.
Why am I telling you this? It isn’t to bore you with a long-winded, personal anecdote, or to impress you with my celebrity encounter. If I am being honest with myself, which is this new thing that I’m trying, I am telling you this because I hope it restores your faith in humanity as it did mine. Gary Sinise really does use his celebrity for good. He pays the band members out of his own pocket as the ticket sales from every show go to charity. Sinise will pass the time with anyone, is genuine and compassionate and just all around spectacular.
The only bummer of the day was that the incredibly attractive young man who took the pictures for my dad and me (since my camera battery died, of course) did not seem too interested. Alas. Also, I can’t help but think this whole enterprise was guided by some divine intervention. I honestly believe Nick had my back the whole time. He is sorely missed.