Did Joe Mantegna ever serve in the military?
—Daniel Robertson, Catskill, N.Y.
Mantegna, 65, does not have any military service in his background, but he does his best to honor the men and women in uniform by lending support in ways that he can.
He says, “I grew up in the Vietnam War era, so I know what it was like to have a whole generation ignored in terms of their service. I don’t want to see that happen again.”
Each Memorial Day since 2002, Mantegna has flown to Washington, D.C., where he and Gary Sinise have the National Memorial Day Concert.
“To my mind, I consider it the most important holiday we celebrate in this country because without Memorial Day, we wouldn’t have any other holiday,” says the Chicago-born actor/writer/producer, who vows to do it for as long as he can.
“It creates awareness for our veterans and our military,” he adds. “The United States government puts on this concert. We get 300,000 people who come to it live on the West Lawn of the Capitol. It is a thank you to all those who have sacrificed their lives and their limbs so we can watch the Indy 500 or have a barbecue on Memorial Day because we live in a country where we have the freedom to do that.”
Mantegna’s “Criminal Minds” character David Rossi is a former Marine. One of last November’s sweeps episodes, “The Fallen,” featured Rossi running into the sergeant he served under in Vietnam while on a case.
In addition, Mantegna was appointed the national spokesperson to lead the fundraising campaign to build the long-planned National Museum of the United States Army.
“Once it is done, it will be the largest military museum,” he says. “It is just another aspect of my support for the military and military endeavors.”