Happy 501st Day! 5/01 is just the first in a line of Star Wars days to celebrate this week (with the most prominent being May the Fourth, but I hope you haven't forgotten about good old Revenge of the Sixth on Thursday).
While I am not technically a member of Vader's Fist yet (though I am the Rebel Legion and the Mandalorian Mercs), that doesn't mean it's not important to me. I grew up trooping along side of them, being an annoying little jawa that ran around bothering the stormtroopers (not Vader though, too scary). Before the Rebel Legion had enough of a foothold in Pennsylvania to found Ghost Base, and before Clan Mav Oya'la existed, there was the 501st. I have countless amazing childhood memories trooping alongside the 501st, ones that I still treasure to this day.
It's meant a lot to me to have the opportunity to troop growing up. It brought me closer to my family as a fun thing we got to do together, it was something that I always got to look forward to on the weekends, and it was something that introduced me (even sometimes indirectly) to a lot of really, really great friends. Not to mention the way that we were able to support charities and make both kids and adults really happy at the events we trooped.
I'm forever grateful that my parents had the crazy idea to put their daughters in some jawa robes, because I think it's one of the best (among many, many good) parenting decisions they ever went with. Trooping was not only a fun experience, but one that taught me discipline thanks to my dad's pre-troop car speeches about not taking our masks off, as well as one that taught me gratitude. Gratitude for the family that I have, gratitude for the opportunities that I'm awarded, and gratitude for humanity from seeing how hard people will work and how much of their own money they'll spend to put a smile on a stranger's face.
Trooping has changed a lot since I started over a decade ago. For me personally as I grew up and graduated to costumes that fit me better, but also for everybody. As the costuming groups grow in numbers and notoriety, things change- some changes for the better, and some maybe not so much. But beyond all of the displays and the internal politics, beyond all the rules and regulations, I think the heart of trooping, and of the 501st that inspired the other costuming groups to rise with it, still shines. That desire to make people happy and help others while having some fun yourself. That's how I was raised, and how I try to continue to live my life.