A few years ago, on an island not so far away…
I spend a lot of my free time on a geeky hobby that gives back to the local community. I am a member of three different international Star Wars costuming groups that make movie-quality costumes to support charity events, such as Make-a-Wish, Relay for Life, Cause for Animals, etc. The helmets especially come in handy when supporting emotional events in terminally ill children’s wards at hospitals. When it comes down to it, it is all about helping make big and little kids smile.
All three groups are officially recognized by Lucasfilm Ltd., who let us use their intellectual property for non-profit activities. The largest is the 501st Legion, in which the members dress as Star Wars “bad guys,” like Stormtroopers and Darth Vader. They are known as “the bad guys doing good.” The next largest group is the Rebel Legion, which are the “good guys,” like Jedi, X-Wing Pilots, and Chewbacca. Lastly, the Mandalorian Mercenaries Costuming Club (MMCC), of which I’m a founding member of the Singapore clan, consists of Boba Fett, Din Djarin, Bo Katan, and custom Mandalorian characters. I helped choose the name, Kranak Clan, meaning “a fortified settlement surrounded by water” in the fictional Mandalorian language.
One aspect of this hobby that I love is that wherever I work in the world, I have a community of like-minded people who become like instant family. The 501st Legion is in 60 different countries with about 14,000 active members across the globe. In Singapore, the 501st Legion has about 140 members, mainly Singaporeans, but expats as well.
Since I joined the 501st Legion in 2007, I’ve supported 192 events in costume worldwide, including embassy Halloween events. Of these, 150 events have been as a Stormtrooper, one of my favorite costumes to wear.
One of my favorite events happened in 2018, in Singapore at the Esplanade, where the Singapore Symphony Orchestra played the music from “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” live while the movie played in the background.
How does one get into this sort of thing, you may wonder? In the early 2000s I was trying to find a cool Halloween costume and I stumbled upon a Stormtrooper. That led me to the 501st Legion and building my first costume. I even learned to sew, paint, and acquired a 3D printer to support my hobby. I now have eight approved costumes to my wife’s dismay, as they take up quite a bit of space. She is getting closer to working on her own costume, but she’s more of a Trekkie. Luckily, both of my sons are one with the Force.
This is my 25th year working in federal service. I give R2D2 credit because he got me interested in robotics, which led me to becoming an engineer. I have an undergraduate degree in computer engineering, a master’s in information and communication sciences, and a graduate certificate in systems engineering.
My dad, also an engineer, visited Singapore when I was a kid, to conduct training on marine engines, and he loved it! I remember when he returned, he even brought back dishes and taught us to eat with chopsticks. When the job opportunity for Singapore came up, it was very competitive, but I decided to apply and luckily, I got it! It’s been a wonderful place to live, and a great tour. I’ve lived all over the world, and Singapore is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been able to call home. I will miss my Star Wars family the most. As my mission in Singapore comes to an end, I leave them with this phrase, “May the Force be with you.”
-Matthew Morley, Liaison Officer, U.S. Embassy Singapore