Kris Connor—Getty Images
By Gary Sinise
November 20, 2014

Family above all else – it’s the thing that keeps me grounded, connected. I look to my family for strength and support– my wife, kids, and even my Mom and Dad who I’m blessed to still have around. Their love and support all these years means the world to me and it’s truly the thing that counts most at the end of the day. At the same time, I’m thankful for the service men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in service to our great country. But this year, I find my thoughts and thanks need to be extended to two men who not only served, but who I have the honor of calling family – two men who are no longer with us.

On October 1, 2014, my brother-in-law Jack Treese died of cancer at age 68 just 4 days before his 69th birthday. He died peacefully at home with family present. He was more a brother to me than a brother-in-law. I loved Jack and miss him so much. I have traveled for the past dozen years for the military and he would travel with me as well. To Afghanistan….twice to Iraq, Italy, FT Stewart Georgia, Walter Reed and Bethesda the first time I went to those hospitals on September 11, 2003. As he was a veteran, I wanted to share those moments with him. A combat medic in Vietnam, recipient of two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, he served in the US Army for 22 years. In Fall of 1993, I asked Jack to come hang out with me on the set in South Carolina when shooting the Vietnam scenes for Forrest Gump. I wore Jack’s dog tags from Vietnam in the film. He was a great support to me over the years. I will be forever grateful to Jack for so much, not the least of which is his service to our country.

On October 27, 2014 my uncle Jack Sinise passed away at age 90. He was a great inspiration for me. He served his country as a navigator on a B 17 bomber flying 30 missions over Europe in World War 2. Over the past several years, I had the great pleasure to spend much time with Uncle Jack and my dad, his brother Robert. Getting them together each year at the National Memorial day concert, or for the Steppenwolf Theater golf tournaments, or the Medal of Honor Foundation’s five Celebration of Freedom events at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, CA was such a joy. A while back, I had Uncle Jack come to one of my veterans concerts at EAA AirVenture Air Show in Oshkosh Wisconsin and he felt so proud to be among his fellow veterans. The following year he would travel with many WW2 veterans to Washington DC on one of the Honor Flights. His final trip was a trip with our family to Disney World in November of last year. The day he arrived, on November 27th, he turned 90 years old. Years ago, through friends at the Disabled American Veterans organization, I was able to arrange a flight for Uncle Jack on a B 17. We made a nice short film about the trip. I will always cherish this moment, spent with my uncle and my Dad and am grateful for everyone who made it possible.

So, thank you to both Jacks for bringing so much into our lives and for your service to our country.

Our family will miss you. We love you and we will cherish all the great memories and times we shared together over the years.

God bless you both.

Actor/Humanitarian Gary Sinise is Founder of Gary Sinise Foundation (www.garysinisefoundation.org) whose mission is to honor its defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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