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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Gary Sinise
Actor and 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal Recipient

December 15, 2008

Today on Ask the White House, Gary Sinise, Actor and Recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, discusses his involvement with Operation Iraqi Children.

Kevin, from Arlington, Virginia writes:
Are you giving up acting to pursue humanitarian efforts?

Gary Sinise
Hi Kevin,

No. No intention of giving up acting. Acting is what I do for a living and at this point the success I have had in this business has actually allowed me more opportunities to reach out on a humanitarian level.

I must say that a certain degree of celebrity comes in handy when trying to draw attention to issues that are close to my heart, and for that I am very grateful. I do enjoy acting and there was a time when that was all I was doing.

But with family and the charity work, it is only a part of my life now. A very important part. The part I make my living at.

Your pal,


Dee, from Ore-Mexico writes:
What is Operation Iraqi children? What exactly do you do? Does this have to do with medical care? How many children would you be helping? I think its very important to help out with humanatarian efforts especially in the middle east where their country is torn apart.

Gary Sinise
Hi Dee,

Operation Iraqi Children is a program I started in 2004 with author Laura Hillenbrand. Laura wrote the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend.

On my second trip to Iraq in November of 2003 I was ale to visit schools there and saw first hand how our troops were trying to help the children. I wanted to support that and when I returned home I began sending school supplies to the troops so they could give them to the children.

You can see more by going to the website at

Your pal,


Jason, from Greenville, SC writes:
Mr. Sinise,What are the top two pressing issues that face the Iraqi education system?

Gary Sinise
Hi Jason,

I wish I could answer that for you. When I first began sending school supplies it was just about everything. The schools I visited were in need of so much. But they had also been rebuilt somewhat by the American troops there and the Iraqis I met were very grateful for this. Mind you, by our standards here, the schools were still very modest. But they had hope and I wanted to do what I could to help support the good feeling I experienced that day.

I am sure now there are still places where schools are very much in need. But also there are other places that are getting more and more attention and improving all the time.

I would say that it would depend on where you go as to what condition you would find the schools in. Iraq has a long way to go. But there is hope.

Your pal,


Connie, from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada writes:
Could you, please, tell us more about "Operation Iraqi Children" and what we could all do to help?

Gary Sinise
Hi Connie.

I answered this in a previous question and suggest you go to the OIC website at

Have a great day,


Joyce, from Singapore writes:
Hello Gary Greetings from Singapore Congratulations for receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal You truely deserve it I also wanna say I'm a big fan of yours. Your humanitarian work supporting Iraqi children have truely inspired many people from all over the world to join in (and I'm one of them). My question is what inspires you to want to start a program to help Iraqi children? What else can we do to help Iraqi children? And lastly, how do you feel about your work? Cheers

Gary Sinise
Hi Joyce,

Thank you for your kind words about the medal. It was a wonderful day and so nice to receive it.

I must say that I believe what happened to our country on September 11th, 2001 changed me forever. As many Americans did, I felt so vulnerable that day and for quite some time after. I wanted to do something to help and I wanted to find ways that I could be of service to something other than my own self interest. I began volunteering to entertain our troops and that lead to a whole host of charity and humanitarian efforts that have been quite fulfilling.

Being of service really is great medicine for an aching heart. After the attacks on our country, my heart ached terribly. I need to take some action. Giving back to our troops and trying to help them help the children in Iraq has been energizing and rewarding. I do believe that the OIC program has benefited both the children and the service members stationed in Iraq and now we also ship supplies to Afghanistan. The OIC website is listed above.

Your pal,


armin, from st louis mo writes:
my question is how do you like working on CSI NY and are the other actors nice and I like the crimes that you and your team solve

Gary Sinise
Dear Armin,

Yes, I do like working on my show. We have a wonderful cast and crew. Everyone gets along well and it is nice to know that our audience around the world enjoys our show.

Please keep watching. Some great episodes are coming up.

Your pal,


Linn, from Ankeny Iowa writes:
I do not have any questions Mr. Sinise, I just want to thank you for all you do for our troops. I have two sons that are Marines and have served several times in Iraq and it means so much that poeple of your stature stand up for them and their mission. Thank you and I hope you have a very Blessed CHristmas.

Gary Sinise
Dear Linn,

Thank you so much for this e mail.

I always love hearing from those who serve and the family members who sacrifice so much for all of us.

Please know that Lt Dan is in your corner.

Semper Fi,


Brian, from Doylestown, PA writes:
Dear Mr. Sinise,What exactly is Operation Iraqi Children? Thank you for all of your work for America and the world

Gary Sinise
Dear Brian,

I appreciate your kind e mail.

For OIC information go to

Your pal,


Chris, from Chili, NY writes:
Mr. Sinise, I would first like to say I think that Operation Iraqi Children is a wonderfull idea. Thank you and all involved for your hard work. I was wondering- what response have you and your organization recieved from the children and schools in the areas that benefit from your organization?

Thank you for your time and have a good day.

Gary Sinise
Hi Chris,

If you go to the OIC website you can find some interesting comments from some of the Iraqi kids there and also from troops who have delivered our supplies to the children. It's a great program and one that I am very proud of.

Your pal,


David, from Alexandria, VA writes:
I'm a huge fan, Gary In addition to your outstanding work and success on screen, I am as equally impressed by your actions off screen. How did you get involved with Operation Iraqi Children and what can I do to get involved? Thanks

Gary Sinise
Hi David,

Thank you for writing and for your comments.

I suggest you go to the Operation Iraq Children website to find out how to help. And if you are interested in supporting our troops I suggest you go to

At America Supports You you will find dozens of websites of organizations that are reaching out and helping our troops.

You will even find Operation Iraqi Children linked there.



Taylor, from San Diego, CA writes:
Hello Mr. Sinise, thank you for taking questions. What is your favorite part of being an actor?

Gary Sinise
Hi Taylor,

In my career I have had the chance to meet and work with some amazing people.

As an 18 year old I founded a theatre company called Steppenwolf

Working as a young actor with so many other talented people, I was able to really learn my craft and develop my skills.

I have really been blessed with some great opportunities over the years.

Now, I am fortunate to be able to make a good living pretending to be other people. Ha! That's what acting is after all. Pretending that you're not pretending. I love what I do.

So many people never really enjoy what they do for a living.

I am lucky. I put in the time early on when I made very little money and now can support my family doing something I love. That has got to be the best part.

The hard work and patience definitely paid off.

Your pal,


Haley, from Slippery Rock, PA writes:
Mr. Sinise, what exactly is Operation Iraqi Children? How did you get involved?

Gary Sinise
Hi Haley,

I answered this above.

Thank you for asking though.

All the information is in a previous answer.

Your pal,


Brian, from Sumter SC writes:
Dear Gary (Lt Dan)Thanks for all you do with supporting our troops. I visited the USO at the Charlotte Airport and your name came up as a great USO supporter. I was wondering if your role in Forrest Gump had an impact in your interest in vets, USO etc or have you always had a keen interest? Forgive for not googling you bio, but if you have served in the military thanks for that too, if not, thanks for serving now. I think you are a fine citizen that uses their fortune to help others. God Bless and Merry Christmas.

Gary Sinise
Hi Brian,

Thanks for your e mail here.

I was actually involved with veterans before I did Gump.

I grew up in the Chicago area and founded a theatre company there called Steppenwolf.

It was in the early 80's that I got involved with local Viet Nam veterans groups because of a play I directed about Viet Nam. And then, in 1993, when the audition for Gump came along, I had already been working with these groups on and off for ten years so I felt quite ready to play the role.

And after the 9/11 attacks I wanted to do something to make sure that the troops going over to Afghanistan and Iraq did not come home as our Viet Nam veterans did, to an ungrateful nation, but to a nation that was supportive. These troops are our volunteers and I want them to know that their service is appreciated. I did not serve myself but I know many folks who have. My wife's two brothers were in Viet Nam, as was her sister's husband. My Dad was in the Navy and my uncle was on a B 17 bomber in WW2.

So, I respect and admire their service and the service of all our veterans and feel that I can serve by serving them and their families as an entertainer.

I take my band all over the world to play for the troops. You can go to to see what we have been up to.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Your pal,


Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Mr. Gary Sinise: First congratulations on being a Presidential Citizens

Medal Recipient. You don't hear much about the CHILDREN of Iraqi since the war has been going on nearly 8 years. If a child was born when the war started. They would be 8 years old. And just what have their young eyes seen and hearts felt? Do the children still receive and attend schooling on a regular basis? And what are the food and medical issues? I suppose outside and maybe inside organizations are doing their best to address the issues. Because like America. The children are the future Thank You

Gary Sinise
Dear Cliff,

Even as Iraq has settled down and there is less violence there are still many challenges. The schools and education system will need improvement for some time.

My program is simple.

To provide school supplies to our troops to take out to give to the kids there.

I felt early on that we must do everything we can to show the people of Iraq even in the face of a war being waged, Americans we there to help them and their children.

The OIC program has played some part in that humanitarian effort.

Iraq has a long way to go. No doubt about it.

But there are signs of improvement each day and hopefully, years from now, some of the children who received our school supplies will be future leaders of Iraq who will know that when they were young, just as American GIs did during WW2, American soldiers help set the stage for a future Iraq without tyranny and violence but instead with freedom, liberty and hope.

Your pal,


Kim, from Kentucky writes:
Hi Gary, What was your catalyst in starting Operation Iraqi Children, and your vision once you began? Thanks for being such an inspiration to so many.

Gary Sinise
Hi Kim,

I believe I have answered that above and encourage you to go to the Operation Iraqi Children website.

Your pal,


From Gary Sinise:

Dear all,

I want to say thank you to everyone who e mailed me today and to encourage you all to visit the websites listed above.

And I would like to once again say thank you to President Bush and the First Lady for their warm reception at the White House and for honoring me with the Presidential Citizen Medal.

I am humbled and grateful.


Gary Sinise

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