Here is what I can remember….
In 2001 I was getting my Vader costume together. At the time I had no idea what the 501st was. I was on the Galaxy Trader website looking for parts for my costume and saw a banner at the top of the page that was asking for help. They were looking for people with Star Wars costumes to attend a charity event in the Phoenix area.
I emailed them and they asked me to come and meet with them. I went over with just my helmet and chest armor and was waiting for them to show up when two young men walked over. They were very excited and just kept saying, ‘We have a Vader!’
The two men were Chad Nelson and Jason Foster. They told me all about the 501st and had me join. I did so and discovered that I was one of only a couple Vaders in the 501st and somewhat a rarity, something to do with the cost of the costume.
We formed the Dune Sea Sniper Detachment and we were part of the Mountain Garrison at that time. We only had the three of us and we recruited a friend of Chad’s and one of Jason’s to help on the event. So we had a Vader, two troopers, an Imperial guard and a Tusken Raider.
Then we got a hold of the Southern California Garrison and they sent over five members and we ended up with nine for the event. It was a massive success and we all had a great time.
Next I did an event over at the grand opening of the Challenger Space center in ?Glendale? I did the event by myself as the others had to work.
Then Jason or Chad met the infamous TD0013, our very own Kevin O’Connor. I am not sure how they met, you will have to ask them. But when Kevin showed up that is when things really started to rock. Soon we had around ten members. We picked them up here and there, at Cons and other local events. At that time we did not do much charity work, we just did events that looked cool.
Kevin found out that if we had twenty members we could form our own garrison. Kevin was now on a mission. He began aggressively recruiting everyone he could. I purchased six sets of armor and had them on hand for new recruits. We also made costumes and props on our own and soon had several different characters.
We had a major presence at Celebration II in Indianapolis and as the DSSD we took the place by storm. After we arrived I discovered that our little group had quite a reputation by then as a party Garrison. This was fine but I felt that we should focus more on charity work as that is why I got into this to begin with.
A Celebration II the DSSD did their first hospital visit. The Riley Children’s Hospital. In conjunction with other Garrisons it was a major success. The die was set and I was determined to get into the hospitals in Phoenix.
When we got back I spoke with the major members and after we got our official status as the DSG from the 501st we began in earnest to do charity work. For the next several months we did two to three events a month and collected a mountain of toys. These were given to the Marines for their Toys for Tots campaign, which Kevin named Troopers for Tots.
The rest I think you all know. We got Beverly and Craig on board and after that we got into the local hospitals and from there on out the DSG just got bigger and bigger. An even mix of charity and fun, I feel it is one of the best garrisons in the 501st and a credit to everyone in it.