A common question that thousands of people around the world get is “What is the 501st and Rebel Legion, and what do you do?” The purpose of the 501st and Rebel Legion is to promote the Star Wars universe with the creation, display, and wearing of screen-accurate character costumes that depict both sides of the force: the light and the dark. Some people may think that the sole purpose of these groups is to get the chance to dress up as our favorite Star Wars characters, but that is only a bonus to the real reason. From building a TIE fighter wheelchair for a child to granting a pediatric cancer patient’s wish to train as a Jedi Padawan just days before he passed away, these two groups work together to bring happiness and joy wherever they go.
Two groups come together as one
Throughout the world, thousands of people spend hundreds of hours creating quality costumes to become a part of this rapidly expanding community. The 501st and Rebel Legion work side-by-side to show both sides of the Star Wars universe. The 501st represents the bad guys iconic and obscure, from stormtroopers and Darth Vader to Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Revan. The Rebel Legion is the “good guys” who portray Luke, Rey, and Rebel pilots, as well as the lesser known heroes like Jocasta Nu and Bastila Shan.
The effects on the world
With members across the globe on seven continents, it wouldn’t be hard to meet someone who’s a member. It has created a way to make new and life long friends wherever you go. Members from California are friends with members in Germany. At Star Wars Celebration, an official Star Wars convention that many Legion members attend, you’ll hear every language you can think of.
In just 20 years the non-profit organizations have grown to over 10,000 members in over 60 countries. The 501st has even been immortalized in the Star Wars galaxy itself; since 2004, the 501st Legion of Imperial stormtroopers, “Vader’s Fist,” has appeared in books, comics, The Clone Wars animated series, and even Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, all in tribute to the costume organization.
The one thing most members worldwide can agree on is how rewarding and worthwhile it is to visit children in hospitals. When a Legion member walks into a hospital room dressed as the young patient’s favorite Star Wars character, it gives them a reason to smile. For one day, they get to escape the hospital room and travel into the universe that they’ve always dreamed about. The excitement on their faces when they see Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and stormtroopers is unlike anything else.
Jackson was a 6 year-old boy who had brain cancer and his family had received the news that he would not live much longer. They got together with Make-a-Wish and his last wish was to go to Disney, train to be a Jedi, and defeat Darth Vader. Unfortunately only half his wish came true. When his family got there, the Jedi Training Academy was closed for reimaging. Ghost Base, the Pennsylvania/Delaware chapter of the Rebel Legion, was contacted to help Jackson and his wish.
Ghost Base got together Luke Skywalker, Rey, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Anakin, and others to make Jackson an official Jedi. To help Jackson prove his mastery of the Force, Ghost Base invited the 501st to join them and give Luke Skywalker’s newest apprentice the chance to defeat Darth Vader. Some very industrious Ghost Base members made Jedi robes for Jackson and his family and friends who attended, Luke taught the kids the ways of the Force, and when Darth Vader showed up, Jackson used the Force to push him and his stormtroopers away for good (or at least long enough to finish his training before some cool photo ops).
Thankfully, the Legions were able to do this event for Jackson before he passed away just two weeks later. Jackson’s mother told Ghost Base that for the rest of his life, his day of Jedi training and his battle with Vader was all he talked about. Ghost Base has set up a Facebook page in memory of Jackson, called Jackson’s Jedi, which is dedicated to raising money for organizations that helped Jackson throughout his battle. The page will be auctioning off different Star Wars related items, and, in the future, selling patches, stickers, and coins in his memory.
What the Legion has done for me
Being a member of the Rebel Legion and the 501st has completely changed my life in ways I never dreamed of. Because of the Legion, I met my boyfriend, traveled the country, and gained the courage to be myself and love who I am. The first event I did as Princess Leia was an autistic boy’s birthday, and that was when I realized how important this is to kids and to myself. I’ve learned who Leia is and how inspirational she is to young girls.
Every time I twist my hair into those iconic buns, even when the hair doesn’t necessarily want to cooperate, I make sure to portray the courageous, badass heroine she is and to show kids they can do whatever they set their minds to and to not let anyone tell them who to be. Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine myself being a role model to girls, seeing my picture show up on IMDB’s coverage of San Diego Comic Con, or even being quoted in a Carrie Fisher memorial in The New York Times. Being part of this organization has given me amazing friends and experiences I’ll cherish my entire life.
If you share a love for Star Wars and making children happy, and are thinking of joining this close knit family of fans, you can go to the official websites for either group and learn more.