Wedge Antilles: A role model
“If I put myself in the way of people just as bad as the ones who killed my family, if I burn them down, then someone else they would have hurt gets to stay happy. That’s the only thing honorable thing about my profession. It’s not the killing. It’s making the galaxy a little better.” –Wedge Antilles, Star Wars: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston
The Rogue Squadron books were my first step into grown-up fiction, becoming my great book love after Animorphs. Many people my age list Harry Potter as the biggest influence from their juvenile reading days; me, it’s Rogue Squadron.
While Corran Horn is the audience stand-in in the Rogue books, he isn’t the one who influenced me the most. Corran’s great, but I’m not a Jedi, not an heir to some legacy. I’m a middle class girl from a very ordinary, hard-working family of decent people. No special powers, no destiny calling my name.
I’m more of a Wedge Antilles, and that’s who meant the most to me.
Wedge was first seen in A New Hope and featured in all three movies the original trilogy. His total screen time is very, very small. This is Star Wars, though, and in Star Wars, everyone’s got a story.
Wedge’s was detailed extensively over the years. He’s a Corellian, the son of a starship fuel station manager and his wife, who once had ambitions to scrounge together enough money together to build a chain of fuel stations. His parents were killed by a petty criminal when he was seventeen as a space pirate on the run took off from the fuel station without unhooking the fuel lines, turning the station into a ball of fire. He took to smuggling and, eventually, joined the Rebellion.
An ordinary guy, Wedge, with a tragic backstory that is more one of those flukes of life than some grand orchestration. And a war hero- his screen time might be short, but it’s impactful. He’s one of the few survivors of the first Death Star run and gets to mark the second Death Star as one of his kills.
The author's very battered and signed (post-battering) copy of Star Wars: The Bacta War.
In the books, though, that’s where Wedge got to shine. He’s everything a leader should be in my opinion: honorable, cunning, loyal, and dangerous. He was never ambitious, but he was determined to use his skills to serve his cause the best he could. And the cause he chose was the most honorable one, regardless of the personal cost. Life and limb were always at risk, but sometimes that cost was the loss of anything resembling a home.
When I began pursuing my commission as a U.S. Army officer, he was the inspiration, the ideal. I failed a lot, and even after receiving my commission, I’m sure I missed the mark often. Army life wears you down. It isn’t the dramatic, headline-making moments that do it but the ordinary grind and, yes, even ordinary corruption you find.
I had a good example to follow in those circumstances, though. Wedge dealt with corruption, too, in the form of the notorious Borsk Fey’lya, a mole in his own unit, and on one occasion a crazed amoral career spy.
Those instances were something I clung to when trying to figure out what to do and how to handle many of the challenges I faced.
He also gave a good model for proper officer conduct, which is not so common. I’m not from a military family and I’m a Westerner, not a Southerner, so there was a large cultural issue for me in the Army officer corps. It doesn’t help that I’m a small woman who has yet to overcome her own awkwardness (this is a lost cause at this point).
Listen, when you don’t have ‘steel magnolia’ in your repertoire, sometimes all you’ve got is your best Antilles-style ‘offended officer face’. Also, for those who must make frequent speaking engagements, the Antilles Four-Step Instant Speech is going to make people hate you less.
Wedge Antilles is my favorite fictional character. He gave me an example to follow in my life, especially when I served as an Army officer. Fiction, especially Star Wars, is full of dashing heroes with a destiny and a gift. While I could always admire these men and women, they never connected with me the way Wedge did. He did what he thought was right, pouring all his skill into it, surviving and fighting and winning. He kept a sense of humor about it, too, which is no easy thing. I think that’s all I’m going to be able to do-and that’s what heroes do.
“To Rogue Squadron—past, present, and future. Those who oppose freedom and liberty oppose us. Let that fact give them pause to think and encouragement to travel the path of peace.” –Wedge Antilles, Star Wars: The Bacta War by Michael Stackpole
Kathryn Zurmehly is a U.S. Army veteran and author of the dark fantasy novel Doomwalker, first of the Paladin Trilogy. She has been a Star Wars fan all her life like her mother before her. You can visit her website at kathrynzurmehly.com to read her book reviews, writing tips, and more.
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