Lt. Dan Weekend set on new stage in new city

The Associated PressSeptember 12, 2013 

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— The annual Lt. Dan Weekend is being held in a new city with a new concert venue and a new sponsor. What is not new this week is the purpose and the headliner, actor-musician Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band.

This weekend’s events, being held for the first time in Charleston, mark the fourth straight year Sinise performs to raise money and show support for wounded vets. Until now, the concert sponsored by the nonprofit Independence Fund, was held in nearby Beaufort.

Sinise played Lt. Dan in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” filmed in part in South Carolina. This weekend is one of about 50 concerts his band plays yearly in support of America’s troops and veterans.

About 200 wounded veterans and their caregivers — more than twice the number as in years past — are expected in Charleston, said Steve “Luker” Danyluk, the founder of the Independence Fund.

The event was moved after the organization received an offer from The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, to hold the concert there, he said.

“Gary was interested in a bigger venue and the opportunity to raise more money and Charleston has a huge military and retired military presence,” Danyluk said.

The first of the wounded vets began arriving Monday for a few days of relaxation at Palm Key, about 90 minutes from Charleston.

They travel to Charleston on Friday where, during The Citadel dress parade, members of the New York City Fire Department and Independence Fund present the college a fragment of steel from the wreckage of the Twin Towers destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

The next day, a bike ride and a 5K race will be held at the Citadel’s Johnson-Hagood Stadium followed by the concert that night.

South Carolina’s two U.S. senators — Tom Scott and Lindsey Graham — will attend the concert bringing a motorcycle autographed by all the nation’s senators to be auctioned to help the foundation to buy all-terrain wheelchairs for the vets.

“It will be a wonderful event and especially touching to help these American heroes who have served our nation,” Graham said in a statement.

“Having Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band return for a fourth year in a row says a lot about the Lowcountry community and how we truly care and support our veterans,” Scott added.

About 4,000 people attended last year’s concert in Beaufort and as of Monday, more than that number had been sold for Saturday’s concert, Danyluk said.

“If we get 12,000 people I think we’ll be pleased,” he said. “We want a real good turnout because it reinforces a real positive message to the wounded troops that people care about them. It’s life-changing.”

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