The Empire – From the Front Lines

501st Alias/Callsign – TK-5492    & TKID:  5492

What is your name and why did you pick your 501st Alias?

So this one is kind of a self-explanatory- I never chose an “alias” because I never really could decide on something I liked better than my TK ID. Being a TK has always made me so proud so that’s the designation I wanted to go by. I’m a simple soldier I guess.

When did you join the Legion and why? 

I joined the legion officially as a TK in February of 2012. At the time, I was still stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, Japan and so my original Garrison was the Japanese Garrison. The reasons I had for joining the legion are many and when you look at them all I feel they are probably parallel to the reasons most everyone joined the legion so I’ll focus on the biggest one- the love of Star Wars. All the wonderful and charitable reasons we do this are incredible and at the forefront of my mind always, but in the beginning it was that love that pushed me to buy that first kit. Growing up in the 90s I was barely a part of the last generation to get exposed to the original trilogy before the unveiling of Episode I. Like most of us I have fond memories of growing up watching A New Hope with my dad. I remember watching the opening scene over and over marveling at the Stormtroopers. They were everything for me. For all my life all I wanted to do was be a Stormtrooper. I was a trooper so many years for Halloween I can’t even count. The first time I went to Disney and got an old Hasbro blaster I played with nothing else for months. I was aware of the legion for years but it wasn’t until I joined the Air Force and left home I had the monetary ability to finally make my dream a reality. I started out doing this because I had a love and a passion for it and that same love keeps me enjoying it year after year.

Of all of the troops you have been a part of, which one has stood out the most & why?

Reverse Trick or Treat at Memorial University Medical Center Children’s ward. Not my first Children’s hospital visit but will probably always be the most impactful.  One particular moment stands out in my mind. We came across a little girl in the ICU portion of the children’s ward. I remember her tenacity and her determination to get out of her bed to have a picture with us. Despite her IV line, her monitor cable, and countless other medical equipment, she was not going to be stopped from getting out of that bed. The strength and awe in that little girl’s eyes is something I will remember for the rest of my life and I was truly grateful to have been there.

How has being a part of the 501st impacted your life?

The 501st has not impacted my life. It is a part of my life. The 501st is much a part of who I am as any other part of my personality. People know me for it. It always brings a smile to my face when someone who I don’t know at work says “Hey don’t you wear a Star Wars costume and run around Savannah or something like that?” Yeah. Something like that. Being a part of this group gives me an ability to live out Star Wars in my very own life in a way that’s structured and fun. It allows me to benefit not only myself, not only my community, but literally communities all over the world. Star Wars is one of those rare gems in the world today that’s universally recognized and loved. I got the same reactions trooping down town Tokyo that I get trooping at a local library in Rincon, GA. Putting on Stormtrooper armor is something I take very seriously. When I do this, I want to truly become a TK for the people who see me. I want people to experience that magic when they get that feeling they’re truly in the presence of the Empire or the First Order and not just a volunteer in a costume. Being in this 501st family not only gives me a group with common interests and love of Star Wars to spend time with, but it gives me a way to experience the magic of these incredible films without actually being in one.

Outside of trooping and 501st related stuff, what do you do for a living, and what are some other interests or hobbies that you have? 

In “real” life I am an Aircraft Fuel Systems Specialist in the United States Air Force. I am a Technical Sergeant with the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, GA where my primary job is maintenance of C-130 Hercules Aircraft. I have been in the Air Force for about 7 years now being stationed at Yokota AB in Japan, the 117th Aerial Refueling Wing (99th ARS) in Birmingham, Alabama, and then here in Savannah for the last 3 years. The only other interest I truly have outside of the 501st is cars. Another thing I found I have a love for with my dad. I currently drive a heavily modified 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. While the car community will never feel as much of a family to me as the 501st, I have had to choose between a show and a troop on more than a few weekends. Being a mechanic and automobile detailing have been great passions of mine and are also a huge part of my life.

Can you give us an idea as to the kind of support you get from friends and family regarding the 501st and all the great things that you have done with the GA Garrison?

What I will say about this is my friends and family don’t always understand why anyone would spend so much time, effort, and money wearing plastic armor. It usually only takes someone coming to one single troop or getting into the 501st main website for a few minutes to realize how big this organization is and the even bigger impact we make on the world. After that, the love and support is always overwhelmingly positive.

And lastly, is there anything, Star Wars related or not, that people might not know about you that they might be surprised to find out?

Unfortunately, once I’m comfortable with someone I can sometimes be an open book and don’t know there’s much people would be surprised to learn.  But I do have an interesting story most wouldn’t know on why I chose a second costume, my FOTK:

When the first shots of the new Stormtrooper came out in early 2015, I was skeptical at best. I was an old hold-out who was excited about new beginnings with Disney but afraid at how my beloved original trilogy might be impacted. I always said the only thing I would ever be was an ANH Stormtrooper. That was my first love in the Star Wars universe. That was the costume I dedicated countless hours to until I was awarded Centurion. That was what I dreamed of being since I could walk and talk so why do anything else? Fast forward to September of 2015 and Force Friday and I there I was at Target looking at the unbelievable swath of merchandise on the shelves hyping the Force Awakens. Despite the immeasurable amount of things to choose from I walked out with one Item:  A Black Series FOTK. While I held that figure in my hands I experienced the same feeling I had holding the Hasbro power of the force carded figures my parents bought me when I was young. I knew in that moment I had to be an FOTK for the premier. After a few months of work and waiting I was able to make that happen and trooped for the first time as a trooper other than an ANH Stunt. Now I bounce back and forth between the two enjoying the fact that I can wear my coveted white armor and represent either the old or the new.