Nerd Goals: The 501st Legion

Not long ago I had a serious conversation with my wife after telling her that I had a confession to make. She was, understandably, concerned. We’ve been happily married for ten years now. I’m fortunate that she supports, embraces, and frequently indulges in my multifaceted “geekdom.” Remarkable compatibility is a great thing in a marriage!

 

Finally I took a deep breath and dropped the bomb…

 

Me: “Sweetheart, there’s something I’ve always kind of wanted to do that I want to tell you about. After keeping it in my head for a while I think I’m ready to say it out loud….”

Wife: <worried look>

Me: “My ultimate nerdy goal is to join the 501st Legion.”

Wife: <eye roll>

 

That’s right, I want to be a costumed Stormtrooper.

 

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Let’s back up a bit… I’m not a religious person, but my lifelong love of Star Wars can most likely qualify as a religion. That fantastical far, far away galaxy from a long time ago serves as as much of a comfort zone in adulthood for me as it did in my childhood. I can safely declare that my perpetual fascination with George Lucas’s whimsical imagining of good versus evil will never subside.

 

The characters in Star Wars are second to none. Its heroes are worthy of adoration and emulation. However, it’s the villains who have always captured my interest. The bad guys have it all: Power, raw emotion, galactic might, OCD-pleasing visual consistency, and humble room for improvement in their engineering/design departments. I’m Team Empire all the way!

 

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So where can this obsessive love be practically applied to the real (boring) universe? I learned the answer to this question several years ago when I first heard about The 501st Legion. For the unfamiliar, the 501st is an all volunteer organization of costumed Star Wars enthusiasts. Stormtroopers are the primary focus with countless sub groups for other types of troopers, non-armored characters, heroes, villains, bounty hunters, etc. The list is long enough for an opening title crawl because the Star Wars universe is really THAT BIG.

 

Members of the 501st and its plethora of Garrisons are committed to admirable extremes. Ever been to a parade or an event where you saw characters in full Star Wars garb? Did they look like they could have just finished a battle with Rebel scum? That is the 501st Legion!! It’s important to note that Lucas Film *does not* officially endorse the 501st thanks to those pesky copyright laws. Instead, the 501st enjoys a well-earned status of mutual respect and understanding with Lucas Film which keeps everyone in line. They are rightfully the preferred costuming group which is often used by Disney for certain events. The most important result of this unofficial arrangement is that members of the Legion are forbidden from selling their costume creations or doing anything that would result in profit earned.

 

The requirements for Active Membership, a pinnacle of fandom, are incredibly rigid. Costume standards are strictly enforced to ensure members maintain a standard deserving of the Galactic Empire. Next time you see a costumed Stormtrooper at an event, take a second to appreciate the fact that what you’re seeing is the result of hours upon hours of painstaking, handmade effort. Members must make everything themselves to protect the relationship they have with Lucas Film (and vicariously Disney). Techniques are learned, honed, and practiced thanks to other troopers contributing experience to a legacy of honoring a shared obsession. All this effort is to join the ranks of other members marching in parades or visiting sick kids in hospitals. They’ve turned a love of a fictional universe into a powerful force in the real world.

 

Now that you hopefully have some respect for the Legionnaires and what they stand for, let’s get back to that underwhelming confession to my sarcastically unsurprised bride…..

 

One of the newest movements by the Legion struck me as the perfect time to share this longtime nerd goal with my better half. A t-shirt fundraiser was arranged in total support of the Make-A-Wish foundation. Their first goal was 2000 shirts to raise $20,000. The ultimate goal is 5000 shirts for an amazing $50,000+ raised. I jumped at the chance to join the first 2000! This was a great opportunity to spell out my true desire to elevate my fandom to the ultimate level. As far as I can tell, my wife is very supportive of this goal… she’s pretty damn cool so I expected nothing less.

 

The 501st’s cause is really an amazing one so please help them hit the goal of 5000. At the time of writing this post they are sitting at 4265 with twelve days to go. It’s an achievable milestone that will make an enormous difference in the lives of kids who need it most. Help make Vader proud!

 

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Force Friday (September 30th – when the new Rogue One toys became available) arrived shortly after my overly dramatic confession. My minions and I hit up most multiple retailers in the Richmond, VA area looking for the variety of new collectibles. We bumped into a very nice fellow at the local Walmart who vocally approved of my daughter’s toy selection (Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels). After chatting with him, I learned that he’s actually Darth Vader and sometimes Darth Maul in the local 501st group. The fact that this encounter happened so close to openly embracing my goal definitely cemented my interests.

 

Our friendly local “Darth” told me all about Garrison Tyranus – Virginia’s chapter of the 501st Legion. Everything he said made it sound like a wonderful group of people! The entire conversation only intensified my desire to wear the armor. My son brings it up at least every other day reminding me how I need to become part of the 501st. Excitement aside, it’s incredibly daunting to even know where to begin. I’ve joined the forums and plan to start getting involved. Aside from that, I’ll hopefully figure out where the hell I’m supposed to begin with constructing my white suit. One thing at a time!

 

As I eventually get closer to accomplishing my goal I’ll be sure to share the experience here. In the meantime, I’m going to proudly wear my Make-A-Wish shirt while taking every opportunity to spread the word about how much good can come from the bad guys.

 

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To support the Make-A-Wish Endowment Fund please go to  https://www.booster.com/501st

 

To learn more about The 501st Legion and what they do check out their website: http://www.501st.com or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/The501stLegion/

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