When our CO Red asked me to write a blog entry about why I troop, I was a bit nervous. This would be the first time I’ve done something like this and I am still very much a rookie. He thought that the fact I was new would actually provide an interesting prospective. Obviously I agreed and the rest, as they say, are the words scrolling off of your screen.
I fell in love with Star Wars in 1977. No, not from actually seeing the movie, I never actually saw A New Hope until 1981 or 1982. I fell in love with it through the little plastic spacemen. The relentless marketing and endless line of toys hooked me. From the first moment I saw an image of Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers I daydreamed of being one. They were unlike anything I had seen and they were freaking awesome!!
Jump forward a few years to when I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and I saw the character that I would become mesmerized with for the first time. No, not Boba Fett, it was the Snowtrooper. They have less than five minutes of screen time and never say a word. Their faceless, almost ghostlike costumes would stay with for the next thirty years. Also, they won there only battle!
My first real awareness of the Star Wars costuming world came about 2007 when I saw The Dancing Stormtrooper videos from Japan. I had seen people in Star Wars costumes before but they had been homemade, nice but imperfect. Here was a guy in what looked like armor right out of the movies. A year or two after that I had my first encounter with the 501st, specifically with the Empire City Garrison. Here were dozens of people that shared the same love that I had, except they had they most amazing costumes in the world! I was in from that moment; I just needed to get my own armor and I knew exactly what I wanted.
My life at that point was in flux, so it would take me a few more years to actually get and complete my Snowtrooper. It was never a matter of “if”, it was “when”. During those years I learned more and more about the 501st Legion. It seemed that the more I learned the more I wanted to be a part of this group. They are all about doing good and bringing joy while letting their nerd flag fly.
I was accepted into the 501st in November 2016. My first face to face with anyone after being approved was the Appreciation Party in January. Here I am a rookie who has never trooped stepping in to this room with over half the Garrison, not knowing a single person. It did not matter. I was a brother, I was one of them. From that moment on there has been a bond that only continues to grow. Now I just need to learn everybody’s names.
My first troop was in late January 2017. It was The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem. The kids had no idea that we were going to be there, the staff planned us as a surprise during an assembly. When we stepped out of the elevator at the front of the hall the kids went crazy! I will admit that it felt great. The kids were so excited to see us and have the chance to take a picture with real live Star Wars characters. It wasn’t just the kids. Teachers were also making sure they got their pictures with us. It was all a bit overwhelming, but in the best way possible.
The same can be said for the whole process of getting to where I am now. Taking your love for something like the Star Wars universe and turning it into something that you can literally wear on your sleeve is quite a journey. From the research, to making the costumes, to altering what you’ve made, to finally getting approval, and finally trooping really is a labor of love. What I’ve learned is that it is a love of two things: Star Wars and Bad Guys Doing Good.
In these past six months I have participated in twelve troops. They have all been different. There has been, however, one thing that is the same over all of these troops, and I imagine all of my future troops. It is why I, and I imagine all of us, do it: the look on the kids’ faces.
Will I continue to be a part of the 501st Legion and the Empire City Garrison? Of course I will. I have come down with something called Plastic Spaceman Syndrome (PSS). Quite a few of us develop this disease. Once you go on your first troop and get to see first-hand all of the other costumes, one is not enough. With this come all of the research, the learning of the new skills needed for the costume, and the happy sacrifice of your free time until you are done. I have fallen “ill” with PSS. Since I have been accepted I have completed 2 additional costumes, I have a 3rd nearing completion, I currently messaging as I write this about my 4th, and planning 2-3 more.
In all seriousness, yes I do intend to be a part of the 501st Legion for as long as I am able and it’s because of events like the one I did this past weekend. Sister Pat’s Kids Camp in Esopus, NY. Every child at this camp had or had overcome cancer or a blood disease. When the five of us walked out the kids immediately run to us for pictures, hugs, high-fives, or just to say hello. There was no fear, just a “Hi Mr. Spaceman”. One little girl, who’s name I didn’t catch (people don’t realize how little you can hear in those helmets), decided I was her new best friend, took my hand and led me all around the camp showing me all of her favorite games. She was all smiles, all night. It is because of nights like that that this bad guy will continue doing good.