A swing through Jacksonville, N.C., just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sywanyk’s. It’s a bar in a building that is so filled with Marine Corps memorabilia that it almost defies description. In fact, retired Sgt. Maj. Ihor Sywanyk, owner of the one-of-a-kind bar/museum can only describe it this way:
“You just come on right in, I won’t charge you and I might even buy you a drink… you will be impressed and amazed and if you don’t like it, don’t come back… but they always come back,” he told me on my third visit.
Sywanyk (pronounced swah-nick), an immigrant from the Ukraine, joined the Marine Corps in 1964 and served on active duty for more than 32 years and in dozens of different jobs from machinist to drill instructor to grunt and beyond. In 1995, a year before retiring from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Sywanyk established his nightclub and began installing his collection of tens of thousands of Marine Corps items and memorabilia he has collected over the decades, mostly at gun shows.
Visitors will see a staggering number of weapons, patches, stickers, movie posters, recruiting posters, flags, medals, musical instruments, plaques, figurines, uniforms, documents and other collectibles in the two-story club, which has hosted countless weddings, Marine Corps birthday balls, hail-and-farewells and reunions.
Among his prized possessions are a uniform worn by Lt. Col. John William Thomason, Jr., author of Fix Bayonets, among several other World War I era books; and, a letter handwritten by Archibald Henderson, who was the longest serving commandant from 1820 to 1859.
Next time you’re in Jacksonville — or even on your way through the area — don’t miss Sywanyk’s Scarlet and Gold Traditions. It’s at 222 Henderson Avenue in Jacksonville. And don’t be surprised if you see me there on my fourth or fifth visit. It takes at least that many to see everything and toss a couple of Guinness back.