- Hardcover: 280 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson Inc (12 February 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400208122
- ISBN-13: 978-1400208128
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.6 x 23.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 862 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service Hardcover – 12 Feb 2019
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About the Author
Gary Sinise is an Oscar-nominated actor and winner of an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and two Screen Actors Guild awards, and has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all while advocating for America's veterans for nearly forty years. For his service work, Gary has been presented with numerous humanitarian awards including the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the George Catlett Marshall Medal from the Association of the US Army, and the Spirit of Hope Award by the Department of Defense. He was named an honorary Chief Petty Officer by the United States Navy, was pinned as an honorary Marine, and received the Sylvanus Thayer Award at West Point, given to a civilian "whose character, service, and achievements reflect the ideals prized by the U.S. Military Academy." He's also the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor awarded by the President of the United States to citizens for "exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. "
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There is much in this book that resonates within me. Nearly the same age as he, I recollect the same atomic war drills, JFK’s assassination and of witnessing Ruby’s killing of Oswald on our small black and white television set. I shed tears as I recollected being one of the servicemen America forgot to host parades for during the early 1970’s. But, what his hardest, was when I remembered how a Korean-Conflict veteran chewed me out at my first meeting after joining the local American Legion post. The man’s name was Mick. He gave us Vietnam vets a stern lecture, because the country still was forgetting him and his fellow vets of Korea. So?
Next morning a fellow legionnaire visited me to tell me I wouldn’t need to worry about Mick yelling at me anymore. He died of a heart attack in the hours following the subject meeting. I have never forgotten the look of anger that Mick embedded in my memory. Thank God for people like Gary Sinise for raising up, for all America to remember, the forgotten and too often disregarded Wounded Warriors.
Yes, some will probably decry the two above paragraphs and wonder what my rambling has to do with Sinise’s life story. To me, nostalgia and embracing my journey through life has EVERYTHING to do with why I love “Grateful American.
Now, on with my review…
POV: First person.
BLUSH FACTOR: Except for one use of the word rhyming with dam, there is not a single profanity in the book. Well, except for those that have been disguised with symbols and, and except for naming some politicians…just kidding.
WRITING & EDITING: Thoroughly professional editing. The writing is engaging. His early family history, in some ways, mirrors that of my great grandparents and parents. I was fascinated to learn that my grandpa Trygve wasn’t the only immigrant who changed the spelling of his last name to make it American. In fact, grandpa got the name Charles affixed to precede what became his middle name, because they had no clue as to how to spell or pronounce the Norwegian name, Trygve.
‘…My grandpa Dan was a South Side man—a big-framed, tough Italian guy who’d been through the war and worked for the railroad. Not a cuddly grandpa at all. He was never mean. He was just tough. And a little scary. As a kid, I was a little afraid of Grandpa Dan whenever my parents took us for a visit. But years later, when I started acting in high school plays, Grandpa Dan and Grandma Betty came to see me in the restoration comedy Tartuffe by Moliére. I was playing the title character and had all kinds of makeup on, a funny nose, and a crazy wig, and from the stage I could clearly hear one voice in the audience. Grandpa Dan wasn’t the kind of guy who laughed a lot. But I heard this bold belly laugh from the crowd, and I knew it was Grandpa Dan—strong, rich, and vibrant. Hearing his laugh was so affirming. I thought, Well, if I can get Grandpa Dan laughing like this, then maybe I’m not half bad as an actor. Maybe I’ll keep going.
For first through third grades I walked to school by myself. Every morning, I passed a big mound of sticks, dirt, weeds, and thorns that beckoned to me. I liked to climb that mound and stand on top like a king. One morning I was messing around on top of the mountain and tumbled off. A thorny bush broke my fall, driving a huge thorn into my leg. Bloody, I got to school where they patched me up. My leg healed, and I forgot about it. Two years later, I looked down at my leg one day and saw something sticking out. The tip of a sliver of wood. I reached down and yanked it out. My eyebrows arched in disbelief. I had pulled out a two-inch-long piece of thorn that had lived in my leg unseen for two years. The scar is still there, a little indentation in my left calf muscle, to remind me. Perhaps it was some sort of life metaphor. Something dirty and thorny can live unnoticed in a person for a long time. Little by little, you hope, it works its way out, never to return.
This was the height of the Cold War. The nightly news didn’t mean much to me as a kid, but I frequently heard about the tensions between Russia and the United States. In elementary school we had atomic bomb drills where we were all ordered to “duck and cover” underneath our desks. On the news, I heard about the Cuban Missile Crisis, a serious standoff between Khrushchev and Kennedy, and everybody prepared for nuclear weapons to land. I didn’t understand all of this, and I wasn’t fearful—but all the adults around me sure looked concerned. Even paranoid. What’s the big deal? I thought. If an atomic bomb explodes over your city, you just duck and cover under your desk.
On November 22, 1963, I was walking to school near that same mound with the thorny bush, and
another kid was climbing on the mound. He had a strange look on his face, and he chanted something over and over.
“Kennedy’s dead. He got shot in the head.
Kennedy’s dead. He got shot in the head.
Kennedy’s dead. He got shot in the head.”
The little kid was chanting naively. I thought he was just sing-songing nonsense. When I reached school, the teachers sent us all straight home again. Now I knew something big was up. We watched the news on our little black-and-white TV on Sangamon Street. Lee Harvey Oswald had shot and killed President Kennedy, and everybody in my family was sad. I walked outside; everybody was sad. We went to the store; everybody was sad. The whole country was grieving. I didn’t know anything about politics, but I knew that my president had just been shot. I was sad too.
Not long afterward, Jack Ruby killed Oswald on live TV, and I watched the violence unfold in front of my eyes. As an eight-year-old, I didn’t know what to think about what I’d just seen. About all the turmoil in my country.
About all the changes happening to America.
Sinise, Gary. Grateful American (pp. 17-19). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Obviously, I was greatly moved by the author’s words. But simply stating that, without including some background as to how and why, would have resulted in a review with little of value. Hopefully, readers of this review will appreciate my ‘opening up’ to them.
Five stars out of five.
I am striving to produce reviews that help you find books that you want, or avoid books that you wish to avoid. With your help, my improvement will help readers find books they enjoy reading.
From the humble beginnings of a hastily thrown together church group of actors to a guy at the pinnacle of success is an unbelievable journey. The stirrings of "there must be more" while doing "The Stand" to the role that would propel him into superstar status as "Lieutenant Dan" the disabled war vet who would not let his disability keep him down and he became somebody thousands (millions?) of veterans wanted to love. He took up the challenge and has tried to live up to those expectations in myriad ways ever since the realization of what his character represented to all these people and tries to pay them back every day.
This is just the story of a man who never forgot where he came from and how he got to where he is and it does try to let the world know why he considers himself a "Grateful American"
Gary tells his story in a casual, conversational tone, beginning with his days as a misguided Chicago youth. The book captivated me immediately. As the pages passed, I began to feel like I was learning about an old friend. He shared his stories so vividly that I could picture him from the curly topped young man first taking the stage, to the proud accomplished actor receiving his award from the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation, as if I were recalling a fond memory.
“Grateful American” is an honest, raw, inspiring story of how one man, who could have chosen any path he wanted, chose service. Reading Gary’s story truly did leave me feeling grateful to be an American. His words also inspired me to try, as he has, to do more.
I've read a great number of memoirs of actors, and Sinise's has been the most genuine. There's no sense of arrogance, just this desire to do good and help first responders, vets and others. And for nearly the last 20 years, he's done that - touring with the USO playing in the Lt. Dan Band and being the face/name/money behind countless other charities. A lot of this has flown under the radar - After reading this, you feel inspired to want to do something to help others. There's not a bad word said about others, only this sense that he's a remarkable man who wants to do something to give back to those who serve and to the country. A great book about a great man.
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