Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Documentary Film Reviews: Uncle Jack & Lt Dan Band: For the Common Good

David Small
Director, Communications and Air Force Service Section

The GI Film Festival hosted back-to-back documentaries revolving around actor and military supporter Gary Sinise, who is quickly becoming the Bob Hope of today’s generation of service members.

The first film, a documentary short about Sinise’s uncle titled Uncle Jack, chronicled Jack Sinise’s brief time in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a navigator on a B-17 over Europe.

To get him to talk about his experience, Sinise worked with the Disabled American Veterans to score his uncle a flight on a refurbished B-17. Given the B-17 is my personal favorite aircraft, the film’s images of its statuesque and rugged beauty flying over the coast of Texas were incredibly serene.

While the film short gets Uncle Jack to talk about his actions during some of the 30 missions he flew, the point of the film is that there is an entire generation of Uncle Jacks who rarely speak about the trials and tribulations they faced, and their stories need to not be put in a trunk and forgotten. It’s time for me to call my Grandpa and talk about Korea and his service as a China Marine.

The second film screened about Sinise was called Lt Dan Band: For the Common Good. The Lt Dan Band is Sinise’s vehicle for entertaining troops through the USO, and the second part of the title comes from an Abraham Lincoln quote urging people to give back for the common good. And that’s exactly what Sinise does with his band.

The film discusses people’s motivations to act in today’s day and age, from the firefighters in New York, to the volunteers who joined the military after 9/11, to Sinise’s personal drive to support both of these groups. Sinise recognizes that if we are to have an all volunteer military, that those who serve need to be supported in great ways by the American people.

It is clear from this documentary, which not only delves into his motivation for his USO tours but also discusses his life, acting history, and how the band was formed, that Sinise has no hidden agenda other than to entertain the troops.

The band, which covers mostly classic rock, performs 80 percent of the time for charity and acknowledges that while Sinise is a decent bass player, that he’s an actor with a band and only wants people to leave having had a good time. Apparently people don’t have high expectations of actors with bands.

Briefly, the documentary also discusses Sinise’s actions delivering school supplies to Iraqi children, helping earn him acclaim from former President George W. Bush.

He takes his band to places often forgotten by the typical USO entertainer: to forward operating bases, to audiences completely made up of families of those killed in action, and to state side training locations that don’t get such entertainment. He always puts the focus back on those who are serving, showing his true humility in the service of those who serve, which really makes him a true patriot.

1 comment:

Victor said...

I really love documentary films. I used to borrow short films from my cousin who has a complete set of DVD collections in his apartment. Personally, I find Lt Dan Band: For the Common Good compared to Uncle Jack more interesting. The message of former is truly compelling and patriotic. Yesterday, I watched the documentary films produced by a talented producer named Gadi Leshem. My favorite is Ludwig.