It was hard to tell who was more nervous — the military man or the movie star.
While visiting Naval Air Station Whidbey Island recently, actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise took part in a “pinning,” a ceremony recognizing meritorious promotions.
As Sinise attempted to attach a silver medal to the collar of logistics specialist Tobias Stiewing, he almost botched his part, appearing as if the medal might drop.
But being a stage and screen acting professional, he quickly recovered as the cameras flashed.
Sinise took part in the ceremony before performing with his Lt. Dan Band at the July 14 outdoor base concert. The 12-piece ensemble is named after his highly acclaimed performance of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 major motion picture, “Forrest Gump.”
About 3,000 active and retired military members and families attended the USO show.
Petty officer Stiewing was promoted from second class to first class status for his outstanding dedication to duty, dependability and the added trait of “always having a smile on his face,” said Capt. Tabb Stringer.
Sinise and Stiewing’s wife, Kimberly, pinned on the two silver medals or “crows” after Stringer read a citation confirming the promotion. The ceremony signifies a new position of leadership and responsibility for Stiewing.
Stiewing said he’s a fan of the Lt. Dan Band and decided to see what would happen if he approached Sinise about participating in the pinning.
Helping with his quest were Lt. David Machinporrato and Chief Petty Officer Desi Von Sison.
“We just kind of threw out the question that we’d be honored if Gary Sinise would do the pinning while he came to Whidbey,” Machinporrato said.
“Immediately, the answer came back ‘yes.’ But he asked to do it back stage instead of on stage.”
Stiewing, who lives in Sedro Woolley, said the gesture sealed his admiration of Sinise.
“After I found out that he’s such a big advocate of the military, I was excited just to ask. It’s making me more and more of a fan the more I actually talk about him.”
After the ceremony, Sinise was presented with a Navy hat with the words “Lt. Dan” on the back and challenge coins that are given as a token of appreciation.
Following the two-hour concert, the band’s first appearance at NAS Whidbey, Sinise met privately with Gold Star families and Wounded Warriors Safe Harbor, a Navy program that provides non-medical care to seriously injured sailors and Coast Guard members.
Gold Star families have lost a loved one in combat.
“That is something he always tries to do after his shows,” said Wayne Short, director of NAS Whidbey Fleet and Family Readiness program.
Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have performed in hundreds of benefit concerts around the world, at bases, on ships and military medical hospitals to boost morale and raise awareness. It plays well-known songs from every genre.
The concert of Lt. Dan Band, whose motto is “Honor. Gratitude. Rock & Roll” was presented by USO and the Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit formed in 2011 to “serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.”