Five real-life heroes straight out of Star Wars


With the way that Lucas and friends like to borrow from history, these greats may even have inspired some of our favorites in Star Wars canon.

The secret of Enfys Nest is out, and this writer found himself wondering more about her background. What I saw in the theater reminded me of a story I’d heard about a National Guard veteran out of Iraq. So, I went digging to see if I couldn’t find more. Along the way, I discovered a wealth of other war heroes who would have made great Star Wars characters. Who knows; with the way that Lucas and friends like to borrow from history, these greats may even have inspired some of our favorites in Star Wars canon.

“Mad Jack” Churchill – England (1906-1996)

What would you call the only Englishman to have recorded Nazi kills with a sword and a longbow? “Mad Jack” seems apropos. Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill wasn’t just mad for his choice of ancient weaponry. He also escaped situations that seemed more like a Jedi in the Clone Wars than a soldier in the British military. Inspiring his troops with bagpipe music immediately before charging into battle was one thing, but Mad Jack also forced the surrender of 40 Germans at sword-point. He wasn’t deterred by internment, either. He escaped multiple POW camps on his tour.

Sergeant William Harvey Carney – USA (1840-1908)

Long before a segment of people claiming to be Star Wars fans boycotted Boyega, black Americans were busy winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Over 100 years ago, Sergeant William Harvey Carney earned the medal on May 23, 1900, not for the color of his skin (though he was the first African-American recipient) but because he carried the colors after the flag guard fell. Despite having taken multiple gunshot wounds himself, Carney lifted the Union flag and carried it to the objective, the base of Fort Wagner, rallying the troops behind. Never once did he let the flag touch the ground. He almost died clutching the flag at the fort, unwilling to relinquish it until victory was assured. Finn should be so brave.

Hiroo Onoda – Japan (1922-2014)

Fans of Star Wars: Rebels are sure to know this story. Decades after the great war, a small contingent of soldiers held out. Believing information about the end of the war to be a trick, they hung to the belief the war waged on and continued to follow orders until the very end. In the real world, this belief sustained Japanese Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and his battle brothers on Lubang in the Phillipines for 29 years following the end of World War II.

Despite work from humanitarians, local fishermen, police and rescuers to convince the squad otherwise, they continued operating as though WWII raged on. Only a direct, albeit informal, order to stand down delivered in person by a former commanding officer ended Onoda’s war. It’s entirely likely that the Rebels episode The Last Battle drew inspiration heavily from this real-life story of dedication to a cause.

Senator Max Cleland – USA

The Clone Wars introduced many Star Wars fans to the true meanings of duty, sacrifice and honor. Few living today embody those principles as much as the former senator from Georgia, Max Cleland. As a Captain in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, Cleland received the Bronze Star for valorous action as a successful military commander. His tenure in the Army came to an end when a fellow soldier failed to properly secure a grenade, allowing the pin to come free. Captain Cleland reached for the fallen grenade and lost both legs and an arm in the following explosion.

Like many who served in the Galactic Senate of Star Wars, Senator Cleland’s tale doesn’t end there. Despite losing multiple limbs, he went on to become an inspirational figure for the disability community and served as Administrator of Veterans Affairs, Georgia Secretary of State, and eventually the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Full disclosure: As a southerner and Georgia native, I am proud to call Senator Cleland a personal hero and long-time family friend.

Next: There’s Not Enough Padmé In Our Lives, and Thrawn: Alliances Will Fix That

Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester – USA

A possible source of inspiration for Enfys Nest, directly or indirectly, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester stands alongside the others as a modern war hero. When her National Guard unit came under fire during a convoy escort, Sergeant Hester managed to weave her troops through the hot zone and into a position to turn the tables on the insurgents. Her exceptional strategy and execution earned her the Silver Star medal, making her the first female officer to earn the award since World War II. Her sheer tenacity and ability to outwit her opponents (and maybe also her youthful appearance and red hair) seem an excellent real-world match for the hero’s foil in Han Solo: A Star Wars Story.

What real world heroes would make for a great characters in Star Wars?