The above is a fair question that many in the 501st Legion have been asked before. Answers, like armor, vary from trooper to trooper. Our goal with this segment is to provide a “certain point of view” as it were to the men and women beneath the armor. Here will be revealed the heart of an Empire.
I am TB-4651, A’den to my friends. April of 2012, one of my goals was achieved and I was officially accepted into the 501st Legion, Empire City Garrison. This was a dream almost four years in the making. Ahem: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
I first encountered the 501st Legion at my first New York Comic Con in 2008. Having loved Star Wars since the age of four, my mind was blown when they walked the line of attendees waiting to get in and began to play around. Rebel scum was arrested. Princesses were flirted with and droids never, ever found. Talking to those at NYCC, I came to find that they belonged to an international group called the 501st Legion. I approached their booth and talked to a few members. Not only were they extremely nice, but I came to find that the Legion was all about community service. The seed was planted with the little interaction but now it required time to grow.
Skipping ahead a few years, my senior year of college turned out to be a major disappointment (I graduated, not to worry). Dreams of serving as a medic in the United States military shattered into more fragments than Alderaan. Apparently, my body was 4F (unsuitable for military service). I felt to be a disappointment to myself, my family, community and country. I’ve always a driving force (little “f”) in my life. It resonates with Tom Hank’s character’s dying words in Saving Private Ryan: “Earn this.”
Earn what? Well, everything. I figured that if I gave my all to others then I could be selfish and a take silver of happiness and fulfillment to call my own.
Still, more time passed.
June of 2012, my friend Ben died. I’ve been to many funerals and commiserated over our lost friends, our brothers. Yet, this was the first time while mourning that we all looked visibly shaken and vulnerable. We were mortal men now, not invincible youths. That summer we all dived into our passions that had long been on the back burner for ages. I delved head first into the 501st message boards and detachments to find out which armor suited me best.
Through my research I discovered a rather talented Biker Scout named Ryan Jones. He was currently in the hospital and severely sick. Funds were being raised to cover medical expenses and something clicked in the back of my head. I helped out as best I could, many did. Unfortunately, Ryan Jones became one with the Force.
Two bikers I had known passed before their time. I was now hell bent on becoming a Biker Scout in their memory. With the help of a very patient seamstress (THANKS MOM!!), I was movie-canon ready in a few months. My first event, Maria Fareri Childrens Hospital’s Go the Distance Walk 2012. But before I could participate, I had to get through the work week as a tour guide. The day before the event, I gave a tour to some very nice folks, including a man in an “Imperial Dive Team” t-shirt. I asked him while walking about it. He replied, “No real story to it. I’m just a nerd.”
I said, “I know.” Then asked if he’d heard of the 501st. He answered, “TK-5920.”
I responded, “TB-4651.” His wife then laughed hysterically. As the tour progressed, I heard snippets of hushed conversation as to how my mannerisms, looks and voice reminded them of another Biker Scout friend of theirs. I asked at the end of the tour what they had whispering about. They stated, “You remind us of our good friend, Ryan. He was a TB too.”
“Ryan Jones?” I asked. They were stunned that I had guessed his name and we shared our stories, not mention a few tears.
The next day was my first troop. Not only was I greeted as a peer among my garrison but I found myself doing things that I normally never did. I’m almost pathologically shy and nervous among new people. Now in armor, I was confident, extroverted and willing to dance in public (this never happened before so my sister took video to prove it).
Then I was picked to go up into the hospital ward to cheer up the kids. There I handed out some of my unopened Star Wars action figures. The first was to a little boy that lost his hair to chemotherapy and through his surgical mask, an ear to ear smile grew when I handed him a Luke Skywalker figure. I got hooked and have been doing it ever since. I see no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Now, I have the chance to serve. Raising money for charities, visiting children in hospitals and bringing awareness of those in need to other is all possible because I am part of something bigger. And one of the greatest parts is that I get to spend time with an amazing, selfless group of people that share a love of Star Wars and are fantastic role models to aspire to imitate.
All I am is just one part of the Legion, one little part. And I’m proud to be a part of it. Sometimes it makes me cry. I make no claims of being a great man or even a good one. I just do my best to help those around me achieve their goals/dreams.
My name is TB-4651, Empire City Garrison, 501st Legion and I love what I do.