Former Marine retires after 18 years as USO director

23 Sep 2000 | Lance Corporal Allan J. Grdovich

Retired Sgt. Maj. Matthew A. Hardiman, former director of the Jacksonville, N.C., United Servicemembers Organization officially called it quits Sept. 21 in a post and relief ceremony where retired Sgt. Maj. Paul Siverson took the reigns of the organization.

In a celebration attended by local dignitaries, including civilian and military members, the USO said good bye to the Massachusetts native after serving 18-years as USO director following his 30-years of service in the Marine Corps.

As the community bid Hardiman farewell, the Jacksonville area gained a new person into its ranks with Siverson, who is from the New York City borough of Staten Island.

"I've been doing volunteer work here for about two-and one-half years and decided to take the job because I like helping Marines and their families. What I didn't realize is by becoming the executive director here, it is almost like having an extension of active-duty," Siverson joked.

Along with his New York accent, Siverson brings motivation back to the community where he first arrived in 1978. The Vietnam veteran accentuates, he is open to any ideas to keep the USO up-to-date, and he is also aware that today's servicemember has different needs than when he enlisted in July of 1970.

In order to bring some entertainment ideas to light, unit representatives and volunteers gather at monthly meetings to discuss suggestions, which hope to direct the nonprofit organizations support to the interests of today's servicemembers.

"The USO is a home away from home for Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and their families. You can come to sit down on one of our couches to watch the ball games on television, check your e-mail for free, play games, and there is free dessert on Sunday afternoons," said Siverson. "The USO is a great place, and it's all due to a good part of outside help."

Along with entertaining oneself on one of the computers or popping in a movie in one of their VCRs, people can gain an experience at the USO more valuable than frequenting their television or sipping on a milkshake. Marine veterans, most of them who have served in glorious battles such as the Inchon landing, the Bataan "death march", the amphibious raid on Guadal Canal and Vietnam veterans frequent the establishment and share past stories to those who wish to listen to their experience, said Siverson.

"You can read the books, watch the movies and learn about war in school, but there is nothing like hearing the stories from the one's who have experienced the battles themselves," said Siverson, who has a few war stories himself.

Bring friends, bring family, the USO caters to those who want to enjoy themselves. If spending too much money is a concern a free Thanksgiving dinner is served every year, as well as Christmas and Easter, Siverson explained.

The USO is always open for suggestions and if you have the time, volunteers. If you wish to help, or have any questions about the USO please contact Paul Siverson at (910) 455-3411