Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan

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Mark Kirk’s biggest celebrity supporter is actor Gary Sinise. Last week, Sinise headlined a fundraiser for Kirk at Salvage One that raised $100,000. He also brought in comedian Tom Dreesen and singer John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting.

“I don’t think you’ve seen an event like this for a Republican in a long time,” Kirk crowed. “We’ve seen a lot of Hollywood.”

(Sinise told WFLD-TV that he’s a Democrat, but he’s also contributed money to John McCain and Scott Brown, and narrates the online tour at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.)

Sinise and Kirk first met in Washington when Kirk sponsored a bill to mint commemorative coins to pay for an American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Sinise is the national spokesman for that cause. The actor and the politician found out they both hailed from the North Shore -- Sinise was raised in Highland Park -- and have been buddies ever since.

“Gary was raised in my district and has become one of the number one supporters of the U.S. military,” Kirk says.

But here’s the real reason Sinise and Kirk make such a good team. Sinise played Lt. Dan. And Kirk is Forrest Gump. That’s right. Wherever the U.S. military has had a mission in the last 20 years, Kirk has been there. And if he hasn’t been there, he’s inserted himself into the scene, the way Tom Hanks was digitally inserted into historical events in the movie.

Kirk was nearly shot in the but-tocks while flying a mission over Kosovo with the U.S. Navy, although, fortunately, he was spared a wound he could have shown President Clinton. He was, again, almost shot in the but-tocks while flying over Iraq. Again, he never received a wound he could have displayed to President Bush. There’s one military achievement of Forrest Gump’s that Kirk has not yet claimed for himself. Remember this scene between Forrest and Lt. Dan?

Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor!

Forrest: Yes sir, they sure did.

Lt. Dan: They gave you an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out himself in front of the whole damn country, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Forrest: Yes, sir.

Lt. Dan: Well, then, that's just perfect! Yeah, well I just got one thing to say to that. Goddamn bless America. 

Kirk has never listed the Congressional Medal of Honor on his resume. But the campaign isn’t over yet. And now he’s got Lt. Dan to back him up on it.

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