Gary Sinise performs with The Lt. Dan Band at a previous Rockin' For the Troops fundraiser at Cantigny in Wheaton. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
At A Glance
What: Eighth annual Rockin’ for the Troops annual fundraiser
When: Saturday, July 20
Where: Cantigny Park in Wheaton
Gates open: Noon with musical performances beginning in the afternoon
Parking: Fee at Cantigny Park is $10, with additional offsite parking available at no cost with free shuttle bus to Cantigny Park
Performers include: Ronnie Dunn, The Voices and the Kimo Williams Band
Benefits: All proceeds from the concert support OSOT-America military and family programs
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:23AM
This year’s eighth annual Rockin’ for the Troops won’t be quite the same without Gary Sinise. Then again Grammy Award winner Ronnie Dunn will do his best to fill Lt. Dan’s shoes.
Operation Support Our Troops, a not-for profit group launched a decade ago to provide resources for the families of service members while they are away, has announced changes in this year’s event, scheduled for July 20 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
For the first time in the history of the fundraiser, Sinise, a Chicago native from Blue Island who fans know from the film “Forest Gump” as well the popular television show “CSI New York,” will not perform because of scheduling conflicts.
Linda Tuisl, who handles public relations and marketing for OSOT-America, said organizers learned some time ago that Sinise’s schedule this summer conflicted with his usual appearance “and that he feels terrible about it.”
“We know Gary feels bad about not being able to be here, but we’ve had requests from many of those who have attended to bring in Grammy Award-winner Ronnie Dunn, who is going to headline the show this year,” Tuisl said. “Gary still continues to be a major sponsor of the event.”
The theme of this year’s concert will be “Only In America” to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of OSOT-America, which started out at the dining room table of president and founder Deborah Rickert. Rickert said Dunn and his former partner Kix Brooks, of the duo Brooks & Dunn, recorded and have performed the song many times and that “it fits perfectly with our theme this year.”
“We had Gary for seven years, and we knew that eventually this was something that was going to run its course,” Rickert said. “We weren’t sure when there would be a natural break, but we are excited about having Ronnie Dunn, and there are also some other changes that music fans will enjoy.”
Rickert said Sinise band member Kimo Williams, who played leader guitar and provided vocals for the band, is working on a new spin-off group that will be entirely composed of veterans.
“Kimo is a Vietnam vet himself, and he’s working to put together a band that will be made up of nothing but vets, from the guys on sound and lights to the actual performers,” Rickert said. “That group will be appearing this summer as well, and we’re actually funding that effort ourselves.”
Dunn is a recognized country performer whose awards include both Grammys as well as being a Country Music Award winner. Rickert added that country musicians have traditionally “been big supporters of veterans.”
“The country genre of music has been a strong supporter of the military for years, and we see this as a great way to again support (of) our theme about ‘Only in America,” she said. “We don’t see the type of support for the military anywhere else in the world like we do here in this country.”