Article in The Capital featuring the Old Line Garrison!

March 22nd, 2010

Photograph By Matthew Cole — For the Capital
Cub Scout Ben Haring, 7, had a close encounter of the “Star Wars” kind earlier this month when costumed members of the Old Line Garrison posed for pictures. The garrison has 54 members, a dozen of whom are from Anne Arundel County. They gather for numerous activities, including lots of charity events.

The empire really does strikes back
‘Star Wars’ group offers fans the chance to meet Darth Vader, Imperial Stormtroopers
Published 03/21/10
Don Burkett has a “Star Wars” item for your every need. Want some cereal? He has an R2-D2 bowl ready to use for breakfast.

Want a cup of coffee with that? He has several mugs bearing the likeness of characters from the movie series, like C-3PO, Chewbacca and Boba Fett.

Want to do some laundry after you eat? He has a Darth Vader clothespin to hang up your clothes with.

Want to make a call? He has a Darth Maul phone that flips open to reveal the emperor sitting in a chair.

Want to finish up with some yard work? He has a Darth Vader lawn sprinkler.

Burkett also can (and does) decorate a Christmas tree with “Star Wars” ornaments every year, and has a pile of light sabers and plenty of other series paraphernalia. The doorbell of his Millersville home even plays music from the movie.

His collection fills an entire spare bedroom and is mostly intended for display, not actual use. It’s nowhere near the largest accumulation of “Star Wars” stuff, but Burkett, a 43-year-old Marine Corps veteran and electrician, isn’t out to top anyone. He’s just expressing his passion as a major fan and member of the region’s premier “Star Wars” costuming group, the Old Line Garrison. He’s been hooked on “Star Wars” ever since the original movie came out in 1977.

“It really got my geek on,” he said, chuckling.

One of his “pride and joys” is an action figure of “Star Wars” creator George Lucas as a storm- trooper. In order to get it, he had to collect five other figures and then send in the proof-of-purchases.

“I love ‘Star Wars.’ I’d watch it every day if I could,” said Burkett, who has seen the original three movies (“Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”) about 500 times.

Cindy Andersen, who lives with Burkett, is also a member of the garrison, though each came by their affinity for “Star Wars” separately. “No, we’re not all geeks who live with their mom,” quipped Andersen, who is a costume designer for the Maryland Renaissance Festival. “We’re uber-geeks!”

Andersen’s designing skills come in handy for “Star Wars,” too, though she’s not as interested in the memorabilia as Burkett. They met as re-enactors for the English Civil War, and in fact, many of the other garrison members are involved in some sort of re-enacting as well.

The six-year-old garrison has 54 members, about a dozen of whom live in the county, and they gather frequently to make appearances at charity events, offer photo opportunities with Imperial Stormtroopers and other members of the empire, and just hang out and chat. Many members grew up with the movie series, and for some it’s their very first memory of a film.

“It’s a fun, social thing and it’s neat we get to do … that and give back to charity,” said Heidi Peterson Barrett of Glen Burnie, who handles public relations for the garrison.

John Fass Morton, an Annapolis resident who helped Luke Skywalker battle Imperial Walkers in “The Empire Strikes Back” and also filled in for another actor who played Boba Fett, understands the fascination with “Star Wars.”

“It was a feel-good theatrical experience in a decade when America (struggled) with all sorts of issues,” Morton explained. “It was post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, and (there also was) the fuel crisis.”

Star Wars “allowed us to look to the stars again,” he added. “It gave us a sense of vision, and it was mighty good entertainment.”

Morton, by the way, is not a member of the garrison, and these days works on homeland security issues as well as promoting a recent book on jazz legend Duke Ellington.

Although it has been 30 years since he was in the film, he said he still gets several letters a month posing questions or asking him to sign a poster. Among the things he’s most commonly asked is whether Boba Fett’s costume was heavy or whether the outfits were hot.

In this regard he has a lot in common with the garrison members, who also field plenty of queries about their uniforms. And the answer is yes, they can be rather warm to wear, but it depends on the weather.

“It’s really not that bad, unless I’m out in the summer sun,” said Rob Davis of Glen Burnie, who spent nine months constructing his Darth Vader costume.

Force to be reckoned with
Many garrison members are also members of a rebel costuming group, Terrapin Base, so they have both sides of the “Star Wars” conflict covered.

But many prefer the uniforms of the empire, which keep them so covered up that sight is a problem and they have to be escorted by plain clothes members of the group during functions.

Sean Dorr, a Pasadena resident who spent a lot of time “weathering” his sandtrooper uniform to give it the appropriate look, said he enjoys the anonymity the costumes allow.

“It gives you a chance to be the star of the entertainment and no one knows who you are,” said Dorr, whose real job involves uncovering people’s identities as a fingerprint examiner for the Baltimore City Police.

Plus, he and other members of the garrison pointed out that the members of the empire are, in fact, the legitimate government in the “Star Wars” universe. “We’re the good guys,” Barrett said with a smile. “We’re not like the rebels who cause trouble.”

Their reception at a recent Cub Scout dinner at Chartwell Golf & Country Club seemed to bear out her assertion, since many happy children (and a few equally enthusiastic adults) eagerly waited in line to pose for pictures with Davis’ Vader and other uniformed garrison members.

“You get Vader in the room and it’s hoopla,” Barrett said. “That’s really who the kids want to see – Vader and the stormtroopers.”

Anthony Ambrose of Brooklyn Park was one of those stormtroopers at Chartwell, showing off the more-than-20-piece uniform that took him eight months to complete.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Ambrose, who works as security officer in real life. “It’s kind of the reason why I do it, for reactions like that. It makes it all worthwhile, when you see their little faces light up.”

Susan Luck of Severna Park, who watched the picture processional, was equally impressed. “What a treat,” she said. “I don’t know where on earth they found those costumes, (but) this is special.”


For more information on the Old Line Garrison, visit the Web site at

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