Dale Earnhardt Jr. surprises military veteran and racing fan Paul Siverson in the Goodyear Blimp near Daytona Beach, Fla., Wednesday, February 22, 2017. (Gary Lloyd McCullough  for Goodyear)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Surprises Deserving Veteran on The Goodyear Blimp

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Paul Siverson is a 30-year Marine Corps veteran who now volunteers to help veterans in North Carolina. A week ago Goodyear noticed his service both during and after the military was “Blimp worthy” and Goodyear offered Paul a ride in the Goodyear blimp.

However Siverson, humble like so many other veterans, felt he didn’t deserve anything that special. The Marine said he lives his life similar to a quote from President Ronald Regan, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

Reluctantly, Siverson was convinced because of the visibility it could give, NCServes, the veterans charity for which he volunteers. NCServes gives veterans a one-stop shop to access all the support organizations in his community.

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As this U.S. Marine was making his way to blimp, Dale Earnhardt Jr. traded in his T-shirt, jeans and sneakers for a head-to-toe pilot uniform, climbed up the portable stairs and slipped into the cockpit of the iconic Goodyear Blimp.

He kept his head down and turned away from a 65-year-old military veteran who thought he was onboard for a once-in-a-lifetime ride. The Retired Marine Corps sergeant major settled into his seat near Earnhardt — unbeknownst that his “first, second and third favorite NASCAR driver” was at the controls of the 246-foot helium-filled airship.

When Earnhardt turned and said hello, Siverson jumped in delight.   Earnhardt spent close to two hours in and around the blimp and getting to know Siverson and his 47-year history of service.

Earnhardt presented Siverson with a $10,000 check from Goodyear for the charity.

Earnhardt, who had never been in a blimp, even joked about bringing home a keepsake from the experience. “I’m going to keep this outfit for Halloween,” he said.

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