May 4 holds a special place in the hearts of Star Wars fans. Meet the local man who built a film-worthy R2-D2—and find out where he’ll be appearing in NoVA on Star Wars Day.
Damon Degner’s love of all things Star Wars dates back decades. “Star Wars has captured my imagination since I was a child. I was Darth Vader for Halloween in 1977. It’s just a fantastic universe to play in,” says Degner, who today is an active member of Garrison Tyranus, the Virginia chapter of the 501st Legion, a global fan club devoted to constructing and wearing screen-accurate Star Wars costumes. But although Degner dresses as a Stormtrooper, he uses his powers for good. Degner and his fellow club members visit Inova Children’s Hospital once a month, along with appearing at a number of other local charity and family-friendly events. This month—with Star Wars Day on May 4—they have nearly 20 events on the calendar. Here, Degner shares what it’s like to bring Star Wars to life.
What do you love about Star Wars?
I hope I don’t sound too corny, but the Star Wars franchise is really a smorgasbord for the imagination. It’s the music, the special effects, the vehicles, the planets and, of course, the costumes. I think the stories have something for everyone. There’s action, there’s adventure, there’s technology, there’s drama, there’s romance, and it really captures one’s imagination.
What’s your mood like on May the Fourth?
No matter what day of the week May the Fourth falls on, it does feel like a holiday and I think I speak for most of us in the group, we’ll do something Star Wars-related. We may even bring a costume or some kind of memorabilia into the office. There’s definitely Star Wars clothing worn. I’ve brought my R2-D2 robot into work before.
What’s it like visiting Children’s Hospital?
The first time I went, I’m glad I had my bucket on [my head]. When you see these kids, they’re lying in bed and they’re battling cancer, and you see this big smile on their face when we walk in. It really brings you to tears. It’s an emotional experience. These kids are so tough and they’re fighting the good fight. To see them smile is the most rewarding thing.
Lives in: Sterling
Favorite movie theater: The IMAX at Udvar Hazy
Favorite Star Wars movie: The original, A New Hope
Clone Army vs. First Order. Who wins?: Clone Army