No smoke, just a sandstorm as Lt. Dan plays Afghanistan

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 24, 2009 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — There was no rock star, just an actor who likes to play the bass guitar.

There were no smoke machines or lasers, just a low-grade sandstorm and the failing light of an Afghan winter afternoon.

For a crowd of 400 Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and contractors Tuesday, however, Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, named for the character Sinise played in the movie Forrest Gump, might as well have been U2.

The crowd roared and snapped photos as the band ripped through a long set of high-energy cover tunes, including "Purple Haze," "Smooth" and "Sweet Home Alabama" in one of the couple of dozen USO shows it plays each year.

The dust, the danger, the boredom all were gone for a couple of hours.

"They're awesome," said Sgt. Kevin Hamlett, 24, of Durham, N.C. "Everybody here knows every word to every song they're playing, and they're great."

The concert helped lift the burden of eight months in Afghanistan, he said.

Hamlett was among a group of Camp Lejeune-based Marines who had the equivalent of box seats: a spot beside the gun turrets of two hulking mine-resistant trucks flanking the stage.

Lt. Dan brought some popular reinforcements: model Leeann Tweeden and actress Kristy Swanson, who at one point each climbed onto one of the trucks to flirt and mug for pictures with the Marines.

"We appreciate what you guys do for us, and we don't take your service for granted," Sinise told the hooting crowd. "We're not going to forget you."

Sinise said this was the first time that Lt. Dan had been able to play overseas during the taping of his TV show, "CSI: NY." Usually, he said, he can get away only long enough to play weekend shows on U.S. bases.

This time, though, he'd been able to get a couple of extra days off and bring the band to Afghanistan for Thanksgiving.

(Price reports for The (Raleigh) News & Observer.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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