501st Legion and Me

Clothing and Cosplay GeekMom

501st logo

Some people dreamed of growing up to be a storm trooper and some of us actually made it there. Since February 2011, I have been a proud and active member in the 501st Legion also known as Vader’s Fist.

The 501st legion is a worldwide professional costuming club that specializes in the “bad guys” of the Star Wars universe. We never charge for appearances and have shown up to everything from charity walks to formal weddings. In the past 12 years, the 501st Legion has grown to more than 5,000 active members worldwide.

As stated in Article 1 of the Legion Charter“…The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…” 

Left to right: Zach Winnermark, Dakster Sullivan, Dave Young, and Yoda - Galactic Academy member. Attending Autism Walk 2011
Left to right: Zach Winnermark, Dakster Sullivan, Dave Young, and Yoda – Galactic Academy member. Attending Autism Walk 2011

There is no cost involved in applying or staying active in the legion. The bare requirements are being at least 18 years of age and owning a movie quality costume from one of the Star Wars films. The legion also accepts costumes from the expanded universe such as the books and video games. For a complete listing of costumes currently accepted by the legion, take a look at the visual guides.

To get into the legion is no laughing matter and for some it takes years of blood, sweat, tears and financial planning. My husband, Brian, has been working on a Jango Fett for the past year and he is still not done yet. Others have it a little easier and complete their builds (costume) in a matter of months. My animated clone trooper build took 5 months. With the expertise and guidance of Zach Winnermark, Dave Young and Shawn Oudit of the Florida Garrison, my clone trooper Denal was brought to life.

Since, I first received my helmet, it has been an adventure. I have learned patience, confidence and most of all I have made lasting friendships and touched the lives of children and adults. There is nothing like stepping out and seeing the look of amazement on a child’s face. It’s great to see the adults jumping up and down at our arrival as well.

Paul Button, Lake Eola Step it up for Down syndrome
Paul Button, Lake Eola Step it up for Down syndrome

Marching in parades is a fun past time of many troopers. Some parades we can be a little more relaxed and have fun with the spectators. In other parades we are instructed to act as a military unit (no waving or interaction with spectators). When the legion was invited to participate in the Rose Bowl parade in 2007, George Lucas was very specific on how he wanted everyone to look. To achieve a military look, he had all 200 legion members participating work with military drill instructors for 2 days.

For other events, such as Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios – Orlando, Florida, we might get together and decide to go military or just wing it. It takes a lot of skill and practice to pull it off.

Dakster and her son Brandon
Dakster and Brandon, Acme Comics Fundraiser 2011

My 6 year old son tells everyone that his mommy is a clone trooper. While marching in the motorcade during Star Wars weekends, I saw him jumping up and down from the side lines yelling “Mommy!” Sometimes he suits up as Captain Rex and troops alongside me. He is also very quick to correct people when they call me a storm trooper.

Conventions are another fun thing we participate in. There are many throughout the world that we attend. My home town favorites are Megacon, Dragoncon, Vulcan Events: Away Mission Orlando and Star Wars Celebration. Suiting up for these events is sometimes half the fun. At Megacon this past year I suited up in my hotel across the street and walked all the way into the convention center and then some to get to our booth. My total time suited up ended up being around four and half hours. It’s also interesting to see others have fun with their costumes and not always go movie accurate at events. My husband, for

Dakster and Brian
Brian and Dakster, Megacon 2011

example, only had his Jango Fett helmet completed around Megacon, so he improvised and trooped along side me as “Mob Boss Jango”.

Some of my favorite moments include talking to others while suited up. The first reaction of most people after hearing my voice is usually “it’s a girl!” One mom in an effort to explain why I sounded like a girl to her children said I was Princess Leia in disguise. My reaction is usually to laugh, but inside I’m proud. I worked hard to get to the moment of stepping out in front of the crowds and serving the empire and I hope to continue for a long time.

For more information and to find your local 501st garrison, please visit www.501st.com

Have you had a run in with the empire? Share your stories with us in the comment section.

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8 thoughts on “501st Legion and Me

  1. This is so cool. I have to admit that before Geek Mom I had no idea the 501st Legion existed and my husband is a life-long StarWars fan. I would love to attend an event where the 501st is appearing.

    Thank-you for all the charity work you do! It is inspiring..

  2. I’ve seen the 501 before and it always amazes me that people are so keen to play the bad guys. Stormtroopers even owe their name to the Nazi Storm Troopers.

    1. The 501st Legion has a sister group called the “Rebel Legion” http://www.rebellegion.com
      The draw to the “bad” guys is that when you’re in Stormtrooper Armor, Imperial Officer Uniform, Clone Armor, or even Darth Vader… you look like you came from the movies. It’s MUCH harder to pull off looking like Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, or Han Solo. Making a Chewbacca costume, and being tall enough for it to look right (Peter Mayhew who played Chewy is 7 foot 4 inches tall I believe) is really really hard. Where as, getting into a Stormtrooper costume, you look like you stepped out of the movie. That is the primary reason there are so many more Stormtroopers, Clone soldiers, and Darth Vaders. Also, you have to realize the movies are told from the “Rebel” point of view. From the Empire’s point of view, the Rebel’s are a bunch of terrorists. They blew up the Death Star which had hundreds of thousands of people on it! Many of which were conscripted workers and not soldiers at all. Are you SURE every single Stormtrooper in Star Wars was a bad guy? They’re the legitimate police, and soldiers of the galaxies legitimate government. Just saying. Two sides to the coin.

    2. My response to the kids questions about being a “bad guy” is “I just work for the bad guys”.

  3. A proud member of the Bast Alpha Garrison here! Despite portraying “Bad” guys, we are highly active in the community and work with various charities around the country and world. (My hubby–and future trooper–says that we’re doing community service for our crimes against humanity). It’s always wonderful to see the look on the faces of kids when they see the troopers.

    And the draw to the stormtrooper is the highly iconic design. When you see a stormtrooper (and now the clone troopers as well), you KNOW it’s star wars!

  4. Wonderful article! I was accepted into the 501st Legion in October of 2011. So I haven’t been in long, but I am constantly impressed by my brothers and sisters in the 501st Legion! Almost every weekend we’re out there trooping for some charity, going to children’s hospitals, or in some parade! Sometimes we do 2 or 3 events in one weekend! That’s just the Star Garrison, Central Texas Squad! I think it is so inspiring how much good the 501st Legion does! To all my brothers and sisters in the 501st, Thank you! Thank you for doing all you do, and for letting me be a part of your family! Here is a link to my flickr page with photos from the different events I’ve been at. http://www.flickr.com/photos/501st_ctx_squad/

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