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COMING BACK STRONG

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Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have visited deployed soldier many times in the last decade. They spend Thanksgiving with troops in Afghanistan and on Friday made their second trip to Fort Hood this year.

It was important after the Nov. 5 shooting that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded that he and the band come back and show their support, Sinise said. He and the band care about troops and "we're not going to forget about them when something like this happens."

"It's great to be back to be able to help," Sinise said.

Fort Hood, joined by USO; Fort Hood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, hosted "Fort Hood Community Strong," part of an initiative to help the area move forward from the Nov. 5 mass shooting.

Second Lt. Ryan Hogan attended the concerts at Hood Stadium to see Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band perform. The Howitzer Battery, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment officer said he heard of the band, but never saw them perform. He attended the event with several friends and fellow regimental troopers who recently returned from training in the field.

Since Nov. 5, the Army has learned it takes an entire community to be strong, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander said Friday.

"We've been working real hard since that day to put things right," Cone said later when addressing the crowd gathered at Hood Stadium.

Fort Hood received an outpouring of love and support from Central Texas, Texas and the nation following the incident, Cone said.

"What can we do to help?" was the most frequently asked question officials heard in the days and weeks following the shooting, Col. (promotable) John Rossi said last week.

Friday's event - which included activities for families and appearances by Sinise and his band, comedian Dana Carvey, rapper Chamillionaire, Nick Jonas, the Zac Brown Band, National Hot Rod Association Army car driver Tony Schumacher and STAIND lead singer Aaron Lewis - was all about telling the communities, soldiers and their families that "we're all in this together," Cone said.

Chamillionaire wanted to participate in Community Strong because he wanted to pay back the military for helping him. He credited troops with helping him jump start his career when he was an unsigned artist, selling CDs and mix tapes from his Web site. He noticed that his popularity spread quickly once he started selling to military installations in the United States and overseas.

Chamillionaire's mother also adopted children who later went on to serve in the Army and Navy, so that support was personal for him.

The event at Hood Stadium also included a ceremony to recognize local community members, organizations and businesses for their contributions to Fort Hood following Nov. 5. Five Medal of Honor recipients - Roger H.C. Donlon, James P. Fleming, Leo Thorsness, Paul William Bucha and Drew Dix - participated in the activities.

Friday was also a day for soldiers, families and community members to stop and take a break. Fort Hood has been churning because of deployments and busy schedules for the last seven years, Rossi said.

While concerts and activities kept people occupied Friday afternoon, the morning was dedicated to reflection and education. Soldiers focused on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, stress and behavioral-health issues, Cone said.

Carvey got involved in troop-support events at the urging of friends like fellow comedian Dennis Miller. Carvey visited troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and said it was one of the most profound, amazing experiences of his life.

Sinise, who Carvey called "our Bob Hope" because of his work in supporting the military, contacted him about Community Strong. With recent events like the Fort Hood shooting and the surge in Afghanistan, Carvey said it felt like there was something in the air of which he wanted to be a part.

Carvey joked that everything he tried to say about supporting troops sounded like a Hallmark card, but he was in awe of how those in uniform put their lives on the line, especially when he received a "ridiculous amount of money to put on a wig and do a funny voice."

He wanted to show troops gratitude because "without the U.S. military, the world's just not a nice place."

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547.

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