East Franklin soldier gets first award founded by actor Sinise
An East Franklin native was recognized this summer with a military college award founded by actor Gary Sinise.
In June, Army Maj. Dan Leard, 34, became the first soldier to receive the Harris Leadership Award. Leard, stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga., studied at Ft. Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. The award was established in memory of Sinise's brother-in-law, Lt. Col. Boyd Harris, an instructor at the college who died of cancer in 1983.
“It was a pretty awesome experience,” Leard said. “It was a huge honor to get nominated. I was the first one to get the award, so it was pretty special.”
At a banquet before graduation, Leard had a chance to meet Sinise and his wife, Moira.
The actor, known for roles in films like “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13,” is a strong military supporter.
“Mr. Sinise was very down-to-earth,” Leard said. “He was very genuine, very easy to talk to. He has a lot of concern for soldiers.”
Leard received several other awards from the military college when he graduated, including a top writing award and being named a distinguished graduate.
Peter Scheffer, a professor at the Command and General Staff College, credits Leard with being a “deep thinker” and a “strong leader.”
“His depth of knowledge in the areas we study here is so deep,” he said. “He's selfless, genuine. There's nothing he would ask a guy to do that he wouldn't do himself.”
Leard graduated in 1998 from the now-closed Grace Baptist Academy in East Franklin and went on to graduate from West Point in 2003. He served stints in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning for his advanced military education at the Command and General Staff College.
He credits his success to his Armstrong County upbringing and experiences like playing Little League baseball and being a Boy Scout. “There was ample opportunity interacting with the community,” he said.
He also credits his parents, Bob and Joyce Leard, with leading by example.
“My parents left me with very traditional values that tie into Army leadership very well,” he said.
The East Franklin couple is proud of their son, but not surprised about his success.
“He always does excellent work and aims for the highest,” Joyce Leard said. “He just wants to do the best he can do.”
Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.