My name is Russell Augello, TK-4038. I have been with the Empire City Garrison since 2009, and currently serve as one of the garrison’s Public Relations officers. I’ve loved Star Wars since I first saw it at the age of 6, seeing the Stormtroopers cutting through the doors of the Tantive IV. I always thought the bad guys were cool, from the faceless Stormtroopers to Darth Vader. There was nothing I wanted to do more than be a part of that universe. Little did I know how much more it would be a part of my life later on.
At New York Comic Con in 2008 my girlfriend Helen (now my wife) introduced me to then ECG Commanding Officer Bob DeSimone and Executive Officer Steve Iervolino. Immediately they asked when I was joining and could only reply that I would join as soon as I had a costume. I knew I wanted a shiny white Stormtrooper but I was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of building one. Thankfully a year later at NYCC 2009 Bob and Steve approached me again and this time I was ready to pull the trigger. I got lucky. Bob had a line on a Stormtrooper, exactly what I wanted and it turned out to be a perfect fit. Just a month later, TK-4038 was born.
My first troop was the Maria Ferari Children’s Hospital Go the Distance Walk and Family Fun Day – the largest annual fundraiser at the Westchester Medical Center each year and one of ECG’s best attended events. It was an amazing experience for me. From being welcomed by the other members to walking around taking pictures with the attendees, the experience felt larger than life. However, visiting the kids in the hospital who could not go out for the walk is what hooked me. When we entered the ward, I could see the smiles we brought to the kids. At one point, I stopped for a second to get my bearings (a Stormtrooper helmet is a bit restricting). I heard someone running in my direction, then felt someone hug me around my leg, with an exuberant “I love you Mister Star Wars Guy.” Looking down (the best one can in the helmet), I saw a little boy who had run out of his room dragging his IV pole to hug me. I knew that no matter what the little boy was going through, his day was made a little better and just maybe, I gave him a memory he could cherish. After that, there was no turning back.
It’s that feeling of making a difference that keeps me going, whether it’s a difference at the events we volunteer at, a difference we make for our current members, or a difference for our new members. Every dollar raised, and every smile makes it worth it. As an added bonus you get to meet a ton of people you can call family, not only in the Garrison, but in the rest of the Legion as well. Lastly, after my years of membership, I have the privilege of mentoring new recruits and sharing my knowledge.
If you need any other reasons to join, remember, on the Dark Side, we have cookies.