Gandolfini was as much an advocate as he was an actor


(Fred Greaves/USO)
Three-time Emmy winner and former “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini looks out the window of a blackhawk helicopter as it flies away from a Persian Gulf forward operating base March 28, 2010 during a seven-day USO tour led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

The man best known for playing complex mob boss Tony Soprano on one of HBO’s most successful shows passed away following a heart attack this week in Rome at the age of 51.

James Gandolfini, an A-list actor to most of the world, was also a celebrated supporter of American troops and veterans. He spent seven days in Iraq on a USO tour with then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen in 2007. Additionally, he appeared at Wounded Warrior Project events stateside, visiting recovering troops at Joint Base San Antonio-Sam Houston’s Center for the Intrepid in Texas, among others.

“I came back and was struck by the silence here in this country about what’s going on over there,” Gandolfini told NBC Nightly News‘ Brian Williams in 2007.  “When I talked to these soldiers, I was struck by — you can be cynical on both coasts or wherever you are — honor, duty, loyalty to your country. It hit me. I guess some people forget about that, or don’t think about it.”

Below is a clip from that appearance, featuring a 2007 documentary called “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq” in which he interviewed injured vets from the war in Iraq, inspired by a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C.



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