Meeting "Lt. Dan" was a big moment for Iraq War veteran Michael Schlitz. "I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, I don't get celebrity awestruck," he told the crowd gathered at the Caucus Room Brasserie on Wednesday night. "But at that precise moment, I got starstruck -- I mean, how could you not?"
The Army vet was retelling the tale of how he met actor Gary Sinise, on the set of "CSI: New York," when Schlitz was in Los Angeles for facial reconstructive. Schlitz lost both hands, the vision in his left eye, and his body was badly burned in 2007 when an improvised explosive device took out his vehicle in Southern Baghdad. In July, Schlitz will get to move into a house built for him by the Gary Sinise Foundation. At this week's D.C. fundraiser, the group raised more than $60,000 to go toward the homebuilding cause.
"Obviously, you're missing a couple of arms, a couple of legs, you've got some challenges," Sinise said. The new homes include technology that helps vets conquer those feats. "This is what I call 'cool guy' stuff," Schlitz said. "The whole house operates on an iPad, who doesn't want that?"
The "Forrest Gump" actor echoed the sentiment. "They're also designed so they don't look like they're built for somebody with physical challenges like that," Sinise told Yeas & Nays. "We don't want you walking around your house having it look like a hospital or anything like that."