James Gandolfini wanted more attention for veterans and service members overseas


The passing of James Gandolfini sparked major tribute to the actor and his  long-lived career this week.  While he’s most popularly known for his role as Tony Soprano from the HBO series “The Sopranos,” Gandolfini had other projects he honored even more.

Gandolfini connects with airmen during a seven-day USO tour led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen in 2010. (USO photo/FRED GREAVES)

“So many people are remembering him as Tony Soprano. I’m always going to remember him as the man of such goodness who wanted to bring attention to the soldiers and airmen and Marines that you see in ‘Alive Day: Home From Iraq’ and ‘Wartorn,'” said  Matthew O’Neil, the director of the veteran documentaries for HBO in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

A visit to Walter Reed Hospital was the catalyst for Gandolfini’s passion for ‘Alive Day.’ He had already gone on several USO tours. He wanted the stories that people were telling him from their bedsides, that people were telling him while on those tours to reach a wide American audience,  O’Neil said in the interview.

Gandolfini traveled overseas for his first  USO tour in 2004 and again with Admiral Mike Mullen in 2010.

“As part of the legacy he leaves behind, Gandolfini has lifted the spirits of some 4,600 troops serving in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Sharee Posey, senior communication specialist for the USO.

To watch Jake Tapper’s interview with director Matthew O’Neil, click here.

Click here to see photos of James Gandolfini’s 2010 USO tour overseas.


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