Gary Sinise Foundation, disable veteran, Christopher Kurtz, mortgage-free home

Disabled veterans get help with housing from actor Gary Sinise's foundation.

I remember watching "Forrest Gump" as a kid and I still quote Lieutenant Dan to this day, but I had no idea that Gary Sinise, the actor who played Dan in the movie, went on to do really cool things for veterans. In the movie, Lt. Dan is a disabled veteran who was once Gump’s platoon leader in the Vietnam War and later becomes his best friend and business partner. In life outside of the movies, it was Sinise's character in "Forrest Gump" that became the catalyst for his work with veterans.

Sinise said in a video, “Shortly after the movie opened, I was contacted by the Disabled American Veterans Organization inviting me to their national convention where they wanted to present me with an award. I met hundreds if not thousands of people who were not playing a part in a movie.” This event was the motivation behind the Gary Sinise Foundation, an organization that provides mortgage-free custom homes for veterans.


On March 24, the Gary Sinse Foundation was fulfilling its mission once again, this time for retired Army Sgt. Christopher Kurtz in Adams, Tennessee. Sgt. Kurtz is a 101st Airborne Division veteran who was injured in combat, requiring him to now need a wheelchair. The foundation presented him with the keys to his custom smart home after being approved two years ago. The CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation, Mike Thirtle, explained to Clarksville Now that everything is intentional in the home. “We help veterans and first responders through their healing process,” Thirtle said. “When Gary wanted us to execute providing these homes to veterans, he wanted us to make them customizable and tailorable for them and their families.”

The Kurtzes' home has wheelchair accessible countertops and drop-down shelving. The home also comes with a garage filled with machinery for welding and crafting, gifted to Kurtz from friends at his job, PTL Fabricators. Sgt. Kurtz wants to use his shop to help others that may find themselves in his situation. He told Clarksville Now, “I want to develop products and make already-made products possibly better so that I can help others that are in similar situations.” He added, “It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes when you think about how much went into (building the house), how many people put their hands on it, and it’s very humbling. Now, I owe the world.”

The Gary Sinise Foundation has been building mortgage-free homes for veterans for 10 years, giving veterans their independence back. The program is making a real difference in the quality of life for America’s veterans and it seems so fitting that it was started by the man who played Lt. Dan. Sinise makes it a point to appear via video when the veterans receive keys to their new homes.

The Kurtzes will surely remember this day for the rest of their lives, and hopefully their story will spur the creation of new programs to improve the lives of veterans.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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