U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and actor J.W. Cortés will sing the National Anthem at the first-ever NBC Commander-In-Chief Forum with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Wednesday evening.
"I am very excited and honored to be singing tonight, especially because 9/11 is on all of our minds," Cortés told NBC Latino. "The 15th anniversary is coming up. I happened to be down there, helping out in the rescue efforts, so I will never forget."
The NBC forum, in partnership with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, will test both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees on their foreign policy, national security and veterans affairs positions.
For Cortés, who plays Detective Carlos Alvarez on the TV drama "Gotham," singing the National Anthem honors his fellow veterans. Cortés, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, served actively from February 1994 to December 2007, and his job was to guard U.S. Embassies in numerous places like Nairobi, Kenya and Australia.
"One of the most important things we need to demonstrate to the world is that our veterans, despite having served, should not be automatically labeled as broken or traumatized, because, in fact, it is the opposite," Cortés said.
"We are better leaders after having led in the military, better community activists and we can speak more truthfully about what it is like to serve abroad," he said.
As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Cortés hopes his representation on screen more accurately represents the true diversity within the U.S. Military.
"My face will represent the thousands of other service members with Latin descent, those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who continue to come to this country in a variety of ways to raise their right hand to the U.S. flag," Cortés said. "If I could show more accurately what it is really like in the U.S. military, I gracefully accept that responsibility."
Cortés reiterated the fact that the presidential forum will take place just days before the anniversary of 9/11. It was September 11th that inspired many people, including him, to join the military and fight overseas for the U.S.
Cortés participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"I take it upon myself to make sure my family literally stops everything they are doing to take a moment of silence, reflection and remembrance for the day that changed everything," Cortés said about 9/11.
Cortés said his children and wife will be watching from home, and his youngest thinks it is amazing that his dad will be singing in front of the next President of the United States.
The NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum is Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.