My interest in Star Wars developed when I was six years old. My father and I would watch ANH, ESB and ROTJ on the weekends on VHS. I collected star wars toys and created my own trilogies. Star Wars was important to me because it was time I could spend with my father away from the real world.
In the opening of ANH, you see the rebels sweating in anticipation of a hostile boarding. You can feel the tension and their fear. When the first blast doors blow open and the Stormtroopers breach the door the hair on my neck still stands up. The Stormtrooper is the backbone of the Empire, the unsung hero of the Darkside. Stormtroopers are elite soldiers. They have the coolest armor and are pretty imposing to look at when you see 50 to 80 of them.
I discovered the 501st legion standing in line at New York Comic Con in 2012. I was standing behind this young man with a duffel bag. The man in front of him asked him if he was 501st Legion, “I noticed your lanyard around your neck” he said. The young man enthusiastically and very proudly said yes he was indeed in the Legion. He proceeded to pull out what I can only describe as the coolest and most authentic looking Biker Scout helmet I had ever seen. I had to immediately introduce myself and ask him where he got his helmet. He told me his name way Danny and his costume was made by himself! I knew then and there that I needed my own Star Wars costume. I asked him for more information and he gave me a website. Once I found out the great causes the legion champions I knew I needed to be a part of it.
My first troop was Kids Day at the Intrepid Museum. I was told it was one of the bigger troops of the year and would host sister garrisons. I showed up and was greeted by my new garrison brothers and sisters. I remember practicing suiting up on my own the week before because I didn’t know if it was awkward to ask strangers for help. Apparently the event was broken up into two shifts but I spent six hours in my new armor, almost if not more excited to be there then the children I was taking pictures with. My first troop was amazing. I had my own screen accurate Legion approved costume but I was in the midst of Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Boussh, Biker Scouts, Rebels and a 7 foot Chewbacca! I didn’t realize how exhilarating it would be to stand next to R2D2 asking fans if they were sure if he was the droid I was looking for.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease. In 2012, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. I remember during both recoveries watching Star Wars as well as having a tremendous support system of loving family members and friends. Discovering what the legion actually did was a huge draw for me to join. Prior to dressing up as a plastic spaceman, I had done volunteer work with homeless youth, and battered and abused families, joining the 501st and volunteering my time here seemed like a natural progression. I like bringing a few hours of happiness to people who may need to escape for a few hours of their life.
There are so many ways that people can gain from the 501st, on both sides of the helmet. I have made great friendships through this group of fantastic and dedicated men and women. The Legion can help you escape the pressure and stresses of everyday life for a few hours as well. Less selfishly, what the legion does for the community at large is amazing. We offer our time and ask for only smiles and memories back. For a few hours, we let children’s imagination run wild as we step off the screen and into their world. We challenge their morality and perception of fears. The Legion has raised awareness of causes and brought joy to countless people worldwide. What can’t the legion do for others is the real question to ask. If you love Star Wars or are being introduced to it for the first time, the 501st Legion is the pinnacle of Star Wars Fandom as well as an amazing charity organization made of some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.