Gary Sinise, humanitarian and actor, is Grand Marshal for 2018 Rose Parade

Gary Sinise, Grand Marshal of the 2018 Rose Parade, shakes hand with Pres. Lance Tibbett. Photo by LB Monteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Media and guests were entertained by the San Andreas Sisters swing singers before the announcement, so guesses about World War II vets or actors in WWII movies, since one of the hints beforehand was about the Academy Awards, were rampant. Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet took the stage and dropped the typical hints—“selfless service,” “incredible humanitarian,” “embodiment of the theme,” which is “Making a Difference.”

“The Tournament is about many things,” he said, “…but mostly, it’s about people quietly doing good things.” People who put the “kind” in humankind.

As is the wont of the presidents, Tibbet slowly narrowed the field. This person cofounded a theater company that is a training ground for actors, writers, directors. Charitable and altruistic efforts make this person (no male or female yet) special and unique. He rattled off a list of military-related charities, foundations, and honors, including an Academy Award nomination for a 1994 movie.

And then the name was announced: Gary Sinise. Perhaps his best known acting role was as Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump, but his work with veterans, military, and first responders is the stuff of legend. Since the Tournament of Roses has posted a press release with all his many activities, we will cut to the remarks he made in accepting this latest honor.

Sinise opened with a story about the time he lived in Pasadena. In front of his house was a speed hump with the word BUMP painted on the street. “Someone painted out the ‘B’ and made it ‘G’, he said. A few days later, a Pasadena Police officer dropped by to warn him that there had been some burglaries, and asked if he had seen anything suspicious. And then the officer handed the actor a script!

“We moved to Malibu after that,” he said.

Sinise loves the Rose Parade, and watched enviously when he lived in wintry Chicago. When he moved to Southern California, he wanted to be part of it. Standing behind the lectern as the new Grand Marshal, he grinned, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

“I feel blessed,” he said, after mentioning that he is looking forward to bringing his first grandchild, now only two months old, to the parade. Later, we were able to ask if he enjoyed being a grandad. “Oh, yeah, she’s a beautiful little thing, beautiful!” he proudly replied. We remarked that he is getting her off to a good start, taking her to the parade.

Sinise told another reporter that he was so touched when he got the call inviting him to serve. In his acceptance speech, he said that it will be an opportunity for him to do something positive for veterans and Gold Star families.

“If shining a little spotlight on me can shine a spotlight on them, I am very glad to do it,” he said.

A photo gallery of the event is posted!

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