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!

‘Canines with Courage’ honors dogs who save the lives of troops at war

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

I originally posted this article in 2012. I’m reposting it today, in honor of our four-legged veterans and the men and women who trained and worked them. Be sure to check out the album below.

 

Natural Balance Pet Foods is known for Rose Parade floats that push the envelope—world’s longest, world’s heaviest—with dogs who skateboard, skimboard, surf, and ski board.  The 2013 Rose Parade will see something very different from Natural Balance.

“Canines with Courage” honors military working dogs who have often gone to war and saved the lives of American troops.  The float, built by Fiesta Parade Floats, is a replica of the Military Working Dogs National Monument that will be erected at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in late 2013.  Currently the statues are touring the county, and will be on display at the post-Rose Parade Showcase of Floats.

On Friday, we caught up with a few of the riders who will be on “Canines with Courage” on Jan. 1, 2013.

Robert Harr served in the US Navy Underwater Demolition Team that was attached to the Marines—“It’s called the SEALS today,” he said—and handled the most decorated dog of World War II.  The dogs operated behind enemy lines in the Pacific Theater, sniffing out the enemy.  The operations were highly secret.  “We never knew where we were going,” Harr said.

“The dog saved 150 lives,” he said, and served on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  “His name was Rex, but after Iwo Jima and Okinawa, people started calling him ‘that Oki dog.’”  He lived to be 16 and met President Harry S. Truman at one point.  “The dog didn’t like Truman,” Harr laughed.

Robert Harr will be riding on the float with two other handlers we spoke with, Gy. Sgt. Christopher Willingham and Cpl. Juan Rodriguez (Marines).  Both handled the 2012 Hero Dog Lucca, a German Shepherd/Malinois mix.  Lucca is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Her record is spotless; no troops were lost or injured on her watch. Continue reading “‘Canines with Courage’ honors dogs who save the lives of troops at war”