FORREST GUMP star Gary Sinise and SEABISCUIT writer LAURA HILLENBRAND have teamed up to help rebuild schools in Iraq.

The odd couple joined forces after Sinise told the author of the hardships he had come across during recent trips to Iraq to visit troops - and they formed new charity OPERATION IRAQI CHILDREN.

The actor, who makes several low-key jaunts to army bases around the world every year, was stunned by the conditions kids were studying in when he was taken on a tour of Baghdad by soldiers.

He says, "Some of these places didn't even have a floor - it was just dirt - and there were no pens and pencils and no toilet. There was just a hole in the ground."

Sinise and Hillenbrand are now trying to raise funds and get hold of supplies for 2,000 schools in Iraq, which American soldiers are helping to renovate.

He adds, "There are so many negative images coming out of Iraq... and I know that the troops' morale gets shaken when they think people back home think nothing good is happening. The connection between these school kids and the soldiers is amazing."

03/06/2004 02:23