"Lt. Dan" from Forrest Gump helps local injured soldier
A soldier from Edmond who lost both of his legs and an arm in Afghanistan is getting some help from a very familiar face.
You might know him as Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. Gary Sinise and his foundation are rounding up Oklahomans to lend a helping hand.
"I was conducting combat patrol. It was taking us into a village," says Retired Staff Sergeant Rusty Dunagan. He had served in the army for six years when a soldier behind him stepped on a landmine, detonating a homemade bomb that Sgt. Dunagan was standing on. "The blast threw me about 30-meters. It threw me into a creek. The bacteria in the water, it was just as dangerous and life-threatening as the shrapnel and everything else that was going on. I was conscious the entire time. They put me in a medically-induced coma... that way my body would slowly be able to adjust to the shock," says Sgt. Dunagan. He lost both of his legs and his arm because of that blast.
"Ultimately you've got to learn how to redo everything," says Sgt. Dunagan. As a husband and father of five, his injuries affect him every day. "The cabinets in this house are too high, so it makes it harder for me to prepare dinner. The bathroom and the shower itself, it's kind of a trick for me to get in and out... but, it gets done. I get it done. You see me over here changing diapers with one hand... I still get it done. It's just putting your mind to it and not saying you can't do something," he says.
But, one very recognizable face wants to make Sgt. Dunagan's life easier. Gary Sinise and his foundation, which helps wounded warriors, will be coming to Oklahoma. "Gary says, let's build him a home where he can live out his days. He's given us so much for this country," says Retired Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Jolly, who was recruited by Sinise to help. Sinise played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, and now he's helping people like his character. At an upcoming three-day event, they'll raise enough money to build Sgt. Dunagan a smart home.
"It's set up to basically make me be able to do everything independently, whether it's cooking or being able to reach the top shelf in the cabinet. The hallways in the house will be at least three-feet wide. They'll accommodate the power chair that I'm in right now to my manual chair that I use sometimes around the house. The driveway's heated... so, I mean, you don't picture me out there shoveling snow, so it has to get off one way or another," Sgt. Dunagan laughs.
"It's Oklahomans taking care of an Oklahoman. Losing your am and two legs in defense of this country... that's about as goo as it gets right there," says LTC Jolly.
The fundraiser will take place March 10th - 12th. It will kick-off March 10th with a 7 p.m. showing of Forrest Gump at Harkin's Theater. Both Sinise and Sgt. Dunagan will be available after the showing to meet people and answer questions. There will be a big dinner with entertainment March 11th at the Cowboy Hall of Fame, in which both Sinise and Sgt. Dunagan will speak. You will need special tickets to attend either of these events. Click here to order yours. You can get them by clicking here. And, the ground-breaking ceremony for Sgt. Dunagan's new home will take place the morning of March 12th in Deer Creek.
For more information on the events, please contact LTC Stuart Jolly at S.Jolly@EduFreedom.org or at 405-514-0514.