... the second highest civilian honor awarded to citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation.
Michael Yon, a Special Forces vet and the pre-eminent war journalist of our time, communicated his admiration in a dispatch from Bahrain: "Gary is a true friend of the American soldier. He does not hesitate to travel into war zones to express his admiration and personal support for those who defend us. He visits wounded soldiers, some of whom I personally know. All love him.
"Soldiers from privates to generals admire Gary for his dedication to a cause greater than any of us. Gary's dedication went much further. He personally supported sending millions of dollars worth of school and clothing supplies to Iraqi children. I saw this effort with my own eyes. Gary Sinise is a Great American."
In 2004, "Seabiscuit" author Laura Hillenbrand with Mr. Sinise founded Operation Iraqi Children, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping the U.S. military distribute school supplies in the war-stricken country.
"For a lot of celebrities, charitable work equals photo opportunity and nothing more," Miss Hillenbrand wrote in an e-mail. "For Gary, giving of himself, and giving to his country, is what makes life meaningful and joyful. It is perhaps the most essential part of his character, and it is his passion."
Mr. Sinise not only "supports the troops," but he champions their mission as well.
"I have seen Iraqi kids climbing on our soldiers and hugging them and kissing them," Mr. Sinise said. "I have seen their smiling faces and their attempts to say 'I love you' in broken English. The folks I saw had hope in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts for what was done for them."
filmmaker and Air Force veteran Jonathan Flora followed him and his band to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2008. He recounts one time when he witnessed one of Mr. Sinise´s typical interactions with the troops.
"It was hot, Iraq hot when we stopped at a check point before entering an FOB (Forward Operating Base). Gary began speaking with a soldier through the window and soon we were all standing outside so he could have his picture taken with him and a few of his buddies. Soon there were at least fifty guys around him and he greets each one as he always does. This is an unscheduled stop and we are being urged to move on so as to be on time for his next stop, but Gary, still, meets with each one and gives them their time. Finally, we have to move on as he says good-bye to the last soldier.
"As we are about to get into the vehicle we hear the guys yelling and in the distance is one more soldier. He is dressed in full battle-rattle humping as fast as he can in this unbearable heat to get to Gary before he leaves. He had just been relieved from his point and heard that Gary Sinise had stopped by the check point, and he was determined not to miss him. Gary without hesitation stopped and waited and he greeted this young man as if he was the first man in line, full of enthusiasm and appreciation.
"When we did finally get into the vehicle I mentioned to Gary how I observe how he makes each and every man or woman feel special and appreciated, he paused in thought before answering, as he often does, and then says with a heavy heart, 'It's because we don't know what the next hour holds for them. As tired as I might get sometimes, and I do, it is nothing compared to what they go through day-after-day with the price they are so readily willing to pay.' "
Fox News will be broadcasting Mr. Flora´s one-hour special in prime time on Jan. 10.