PASADENA, Calif. — Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder actor Gary Sinise has been named grand marshal of the 2018 Rose Parade, which will feature the theme “Making a Difference.” Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet announced the selection Monday. He cited Sinise’s many contributions to veterans’ causes.

Sinise will ride through Pasadena, California, in the 129th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day and participate in the celebration before at the 104th Rose Bowl game, which will be a college football playoff semifinal.

Among signature roles, Sinise played the double-amputee Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.”

In thanking the Tournament of Roses for the grand marshal honor he recalled the movie’s famous line, saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Sinise’s support of veterans pre-dated “Forrest Gump,” but he embraced the character he portrayed by forming the Lt. Dan Band, which performs at benefits and USO shows.

In 2011, he established the Gary Sinise Foundation to provide a wide range of services to veterans, service members and first responders.

Sinise told the Pasadena gathering he feels blessed to use his career success “to make a difference in the lives of our veterans, our active-duty service members, our Gold Star families — way too many Gold Star families, way too many wounded from these wars.”

He added, “They continue to struggle. They continue to sacrifice for us. So if by shining a little spotlight on me on January 1st can shine a spotlight on them to help me make a difference in their lives, I am very, very grateful to do that.”

Associated Press