While many jockey for the title of “Biggest Star Wars Fan,” few are willing to go to the same lengths as one western New York military veteran.
In an impressive show of fandom, 43-year-old former Marine Eric Welch legally changed his name last year and became Darth Vader. A spokesperson for the Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that Darth Vader is indeed his legal name, according to The Associated Press.
Vader, who lives in Canandaigua, New York, is often seen at the gym or at marathons, running with a gas mask and an American flag, reports the Democrat & Chronicle, which broke the story on Dec. 19.
Vader often shows up around town dressed as, well, himself. Eagerly flashing his I.D. to prove he is indeed Darth Vader. A 1991 Penfield High School graduate and Marine veteran, Vader grew up in foster care, and says he didn’t have strong ties to his name.
"I wanted to do something of my own," Vader told the newspaper, explaining that he lived in eight foster homes and attended 15 different schools growing up. "I had no strong family ties to my name. I wanted a separation from myself and my past."
His motivation for choosing Darth Vader as his new identity had to do with the Empire’s equipment and the Sith lord’s leadership qualities.
"They had better weapons, better vehicles," Vader told the Democrat & Chronicle. "I just gravitated toward Darth Vader, he was the man. He carried an aura of leadership, toughness and didn't say much to get his point across."
Let’s just hope this new Vader doesn’t start using the the Force to choke out any subordinates like his mentor.
Vader also battled with leukemia and a serious bone disorder since he was diagnosed in 2002. His condition is manageable, he said, but will eventually require a bone marrow transplant.
Vader owns Allegiant Fitness, a small gym in Canandaigua, and this year he’s completed 13 half marathons and 18 Tough Mudder races around the country.
Vader says that staying in shape and preparing for marathons and runs "gives me something to look forward to," adding that "it keeps my mind off doctor's appointments, of all that I've gone through, am going through and will continue to go through."
For Vader, who’s still Eric to his friends and Lord Vader to those who want to be sarcastic about it, his new name helped him change how he views his illness.
"It gives me drive, a reason to never give up and never let leukemia define who I am," Vader told the Democrat & Chronicle.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."