The Orlando Sentinel website has a fantastic review of Heart of an Empire from Sentinelmovie critic Roger Moore, that doubles as a full on tribute to the men and women of the 501st. See below for a couple exerpts:
"You see them at movie premieres, at fan conventions, any place the subculture we call "fanboys" gathers.
They are obsessed devotees of this TV show, that comic book or movie, people so enamored with the fantasy that they dress up as their favorite characters and role-play, in costume, in public -- Vulcans and Romulans and Sand People, oh my.
But the fanboys and girls all know that you can dab on the perfect shade of green or twirl your hair into the grandest Princess Leia twist: Nobody will give you a second look when the phalanx in white and black -- the Star Wars stormtroopers -- march in.
"You get characters from every anime movie or TV show under the sun" at conventions like MegaCon or FX," says Rick Stafford, Clone Trooper TC 7425, from Orlando. "When we show up, everybody turns and goes, 'I have got to get a picture with you!' "
I had to include this exerpt as well. It was too moving not to. See for yourself...
"On a weekend in late March of 2005, passers-by might have wondered just what was going on at Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Orlando. Scores of stormtroopers, Death Star flag officers and Boba Fett look-alikes milled around the chapel on Lake Ivanhoe.
Rick Stafford's son, Christian, was 8 years old. He had inherited his father's love for "everything and anything to do with Star Wars," his father says. "Toys, Legos, lightsabers, all of it." But Christian had leukemia. Rick had seen troopers at Disney's Star Wars weekends and had wanted to hire them to come visit his son in the hospital, "maybe take him out of this awful reality he was living in and into this fantasy world he loved, just for a little while."
He found out who they were but couldn't hire them. They would come for free, they said. But Christian took a turn for the worse and died before the visit could take place. On that late March day, stormtroopers from as far away as Miami and Jacksonville came, strangers all, to the funeral of a little boy they had never met.
"We were coping with Christian's death and trying to set up this service to celebrate his life," Stafford recalls, still emotional about what he saw that day. "And the leader of the Orlando squad, Esh Velazquez, said 'You work on your stuff. We'll take care of the rest.' "
They suited up and served as ushers and an honor guard for Christian. They made Christian an honorary stormtrooper, TC 1219 ("A clone trooper, just like his dad, who protected the Jedi in Attack of the Clones," his father says.). At day's end, Florida's members of the 501st presented Stafford, 37, with "this huge box, a plastic kit, and they said 'You seem like the sort of guy who shares what we're about,' " Stafford remembers. "I was invited in, right then and there."
He thought about it. Then he put the kit together. Often that's done at an "armor party," where folks with heat guns and Dremel tools trim and bend the plastic to match the trooper they're outfitting. If you don't get the fit right, you get "armor kisses, armor bites" from the plastic pieces at the joints. Stafford finished his and made a promise to himself and his dead son.