Ever wonder what it would be like to meet your favorite NASCAR driver?
Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Maj. Paul Siverson spent the last week in Daytona thanks to Goodyear where he got to know Dale Earnhardt, Jr. like family.
“The biggest part of this was just spending that amount of time one-on-one with Dale Earnhardt,” Siverson said. “It was just like he was my buddy from down the street. He is just a cool guy.”
Siverson and his wife were flown to Daytona Feb, 20 to spend “race week” down in the pits, in the drivers’ garages and getting the VIP treatment, he said.
Riding in the Goodyear blimp was a close second to spending time with Earnhardt, Siverson said, even though the ride was something that almost didn’t happen because of the weather.
Siverson said the initial trip up into the blimp had to be cancelled because of rain, but when a second opportunity came around late in the trip, he said he jumped on it.
Little did he know Earnhardt was posing as a pilot, waiting to surprise Siverson.
MARCH Marketing President, and Army veteran, Tom Aiello said Siverson’s surprise went beyond just seeing Earnhardt aboard the blimp.
“In an honest moment right after the surprise reveal on the blimp, Paul looked at Dale Earnhardt Jr and asked, ‘Are you really a blimp pilot?’” he said.
Siverson and his wife spent the next hour and a half cruising Daytona Beach in the blimp with Earnhardt, waving at beach goers and watching sharks, he said.
“The blimp ride was phenomenal,” Siverson said.
Spending time with Earnhardt in the blimp, in the pits and in personal garage was a way of honoring Siverson for his continued service to veterans within the Jacksonville area.
Goodyear first recognized Siverson’s work with NCServes as an outreach coordinator, Aiello, who asked to assist Goodyear in finding a veteran to honor said, little did they know that was only one of the many organizations he is connected to.
Last time he counted he was part of 16 different veteran organizations, Siverson said.
Aiello said Goodyear’s choice to honor Siverson for his service, both past and present, was indicative of the company’s goal to recognize those veterans that serve beyond their active duty years.
“Most veterans in America are Vietnam veterans like Paul. And like Paul, so many Vietnam vets have dedicated their lives to support younger generations of veterans,” he said. “In honoring Paul, Goodyear was able to honor the service of countless veterans.”
The trip for him, however, wasn’t just about getting to spend time with Earnhardt, or seeing the Daytona 500 from turn four.
Even hundreds of miles from home Siverson continued to share the importance of veterans continuing to serve.
“The thing that kept going through my mind was that I was happy to be selected. There are probably many more veterans out there that have done more than I have especially in this community. The retirees do so much work to help each other and the active duty. There are so many more worthy people to get this. I was quite humbled and quite honored to have been able to do this. I wanted to go down there and represent Jacksonville, North Carolina. That was the key thing. What I wanted to do was tell them what we’ve done and put us on the map so to speak,” he said.
Siverson said he was proud of this community and continuing to serve within it is important to him, especially with his work with in the Vet Center.
A short video was created while he was in Daytona that highlighted the new veteran’s assistance program, NCServes, as well as the vet center.
NCServes was presented with a $10,000 check from Goodyear, presented by Earnhardt, at the end of that video.
Siverson said the trip was busy, but something he will never forget.
“What can you say? It was a humbling and overwhelming trip and week,” he said. “I got to do things that the ordinary person never ever gets to do.”