‘Lt. Dan’ concert to help local veteran live independently
by Laura Gaddy
May 15, 2013 | 6018 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ben Tomlinson acknowledges the crowd upon his arrival home in Jacksonville in 2012. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Ben Tomlinson acknowledges the crowd upon his arrival home in Jacksonville in 2012. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Actor and musician Gary Sinise will front a benefit concert in Jacksonville Sunday to make a new home possible for a local man with war wounds.

Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will play at JSU Stadium to raise money for Marine Sgt. Ben Tomlinson, a Jacksonville resident who was paralyzed in 2010 while fighting in Afghanistan. Together with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a New York-based 9/11 charity, the Gary Sinise Foundation is contributing to the project, dubbed “Operation Ben.” With local sponsors, including Jacksonville State University, the two national non-profit organizations are collecting money through the concert to build Tomlinson a “smart home,” with features to accommodate his disabilities.

The band is named for the character of the wounded veteran Lt. Dan Taylor, who Sinise portrayed in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.”

Tomlinson was selected for the project by the organizations for their “Building for America’s Bravest” program, which exists to provide homes to veterans whose mobility has been severely limited due to service.

Tomlinson’s new home will cost $400,000 and enable him to live independently for the first time since he returned to Jacksonville. The home will have special automated features to accommodate Tomlinson, who uses a wheelchair and has limited control of his upper body because of his injuries.

For example, with the touch of an iPad, the home’s countertop, stove top and cabinets will lower for easy use.

Since a March 20 press conference during which Operation Ben was announced, local partners have stepped up to help. Among them is AOD Federal Credit Union, which provided a $50,000 corporate sponsorship donation on April 10.

“The board of directors was very moved by the story of Ben Tomlinson and they felt that he was a local veteran who has earned the right to have a smart home,” said Richard Simonton, president and CEO of the Credit Union. “We were willing to support that effort in any way we can.”

This week the fundraising effort received another boost when an anonymous donor gave $50,000 in matching funds to Operation Ben. For every dollar spent on a Lt. Dan Band ticket for this weekend’s event, the donor will give a dollar until the $50,000 mark is met.

Ticket prices for the performance on Sunday at 6 p.m. range from $25 to $50. They can be purchased at www.operationben.com.

Tickets are also available for purchase at AOD Federal Credit Union, 1060 JD&L Drive SW, Jacksonville and at JSU Stadium Saturday and Sunday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., according to a release from JSU.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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