The Empire – From the Front Lines

501st Alias/Callsign – ryguyrocks

TKID –  TI-40707

What is your name and why did you pick your 501st Alias? – Ryan Werts and it’s a nickname one of my friends growing up gave me and it has stuck. As far as my TKID, it is the date on my anniversary with my wife Inge. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary this past April.

When did you join the Legion and why? – I joined the legion in 2015 as a reserve TIE Pilot. I have liked Star Wars my whole life and also wanted to have a Stormtrooper costume. When I found out about the 501st and all that they do for the community, it became a goal to join when I could. It may be an expensive hobby but seeing the look on kids faces when then see you makes it all worth it. As a parent of someone who has Special Needs, I know how much some of those meetings can mean to them. So by being able to combine being and to raise money for charity and give back to the community alongside Star Wars it is a win-win for me. It has been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve been able to do.

Of all of the troops you have been a part of, which one has stood out the most & why? – The troop that stands out the most for me is the Bert’s Big Adventure send off party from this year, I was there in my ANH TIE Pilot. We were there along side the Disney Princesses and other costumed characters. Bert’s Big Adventure is just a great event on it’s own that it was honor to be able to be a part of the send off. But that’s not what made it memorable for me. As I was walking around I ran into a little girl who was there with her sister, every time she saw me she would hand me her balloon horse to play with. So every time I would get on the floor and play with her horses. At one point me in my TIE Pilot and Beth in her Kylo were on the floor playing with her horses when Belle came over and took one of the horses to play with us. The little girl then gave Belle a dirty look and took the horse back and handed it back to me and said “I’m playing with my friends”. She didn’t want to play with the princesses, she wanted to play with Kylo and a TIE Pilot. Then at the end I was able ride the shuttle with her from the hotel to the airport hanger. While on the ride she kept talking about her “robot” friend. Her dad told me she didn’t know anything about Star Wars, so not sure what made her like us more than the Disney Princesses.

How has being a part of the 501st impacted your life? – It is one of the most rewarding thing I have done. Being able to cheer up kids at the Children’s Hospital to raising money by getting shot at by nerf guns it’s all so rewarding at the end of the day. And many times it’s the adults who get just as excited to see us and the kids.

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? – My day job is a SharePoint developer at Macy’s Technology, so I sit in front of a computer the majority of the day. I have always been a tinkerer my whole life so have always have something going on. Recently I have been having some fun with some Raspberry PI’s and also with Home Automation. My kids think it’s the coolest thing that they can turn on/off lights with their voices.

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? – My wife isn’t a big Star Wars fan like I was growing up but after learning more about the 50st and everything it does she was all in. She has since joined and joins me at many of the events that I attend. It has been awesome to be able to have her join me on this journey. She actually has more approved costumes than I do currently!

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? – I grew up in small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I spent a lot of time growing up in the pool at swim practice. From when I was 8 up until I graduated High School I swam competitively, year round for most of those years.