One of my earliest vivid memories had me in a darkened movie theater. I wasn’t even four years old, but I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. Yellow test scrolling around the background of space, something I couldn’t read then, but it continued until a space ship comes on screen, blaster bolts peppering its shields.

From then on, I was hooked. I’ve since seen every Star Wars film during its original run in the theater and while I haven’t seen Rise of Skywalker yet, I will in the next week or so. I only skipped opening weekend because of how bad The Last Jedi was.

So yeah, I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd, despite having been let down to some degree over the last five movies. But, then again, Lucasfilms also did The Mandalorian, so they can still do good stuff.

Anyway, I’m getting off-topic a bit. After all, this is a gun site, not a science fiction site.

However, it’s interesting when those two world kind of overlap. That’s what happened recently when the hero of the UNC Charlotte shooting, Riley Howell, received a very special honor.

Riley Howell, the T.C. Roberson High School graduate who was fatally shot in the April 30 UNC Charlotte shooting while protecting his classmates, has been hailed as a hero by authorities and family alike.

And now, he’s been immortalized as a Jedi, a guardian of peace and justice in the beloved Star Wars film series.

The fan relations team for Lucasfilm, the production company behind the Star Wars series, wrote a letter to Howell’s family expressing condolences.

“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in all of us,” wrote fan relations team member Lucas Seastrom. “We hope that you may rejoice in his memory, and we join you in honoring his life and example.”

“As a small tribute, our Story Group has incorporated a reimagining of Riley’s name as a character in the Star Wars galaxy,” Seastrom continued. “We can’t reveal the specific details at this time, but the character’s name will appear in a forthcoming book publication later this year.

The Force will be with Riley, and all of you, always…”

Howell was apparently a huge fan of the franchise and as a genuine hero, something like this seems appropriate.

While the letter wouldn’t specify the context of Howell’s appearance, it seems that the “reimaging” of the name resulted in Ri-Lee Howell, a Jedi master and historian mentioned in the book Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary.

Just like that, a real-life hero is made part of the canon in a science-fiction franchise he loved.

Maybe it’s me, but this is the kind of thing I want to see more of. I want to see these real-life heroes honored and remembered, to see them serve as the inspiration for fictional heroes, even if only in name. We, as a society, need to stop mentioning the maniacs who carry out these attacks and turn people like Riley Howell into household names.

Good on Lucasfilms for doing this. This is cool enough to almost make up for The Last Jedi.

Almost.