Following the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Star Wars actor and United24 ambassador Mark Hamill is raising money to help the Ukrainian military purchase fleets of unmanned reconnaissance drones.
As part of its "Army of Drones" project, United24 is raffling off 10 signed Star Wars posters created by original artists that feature Hamill's signature. Five of the posters are guaranteed to participants who donate $10,000 or more, and the project aims to raise $1,500,000 to purchase 10 RQ-35 Heidrun reconnaissance drones.
These drones are "the eyes in the sky — they monitor the border, they protect the people, they can transmit video in real time, and they’ve been proven to be highly effective," Hamill told Yahoo Finance.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration founded United24 in May 2022. The organization prioritizes humanitarian and fundraising initiatives for Ukraine's infrastructure, civilian medical care, and even reconnaissance drones.
United24 has recruited several other celebrity ambassadors, including singer and actress Barbra Streisand, the band Imagine Dragons, and actor Liev Schreiber.
Hamill detailed how President Zelensky himself reached out to offer him the opportunity to be the face of the "Army of Drones" project.
"I immediately said yes — I was very well aware of what had happened because I do follow the news closely and we were all in a state of shock that this could happen," Hamill said.
Hamill, who became famous for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker, has been absent from fan conventions since 2017, adding cachet to his signature and the fundraiser.
"It was my wife’s idea — what if we signed Star Wars memorabilia?" Hamill explained. "I’m doing what I can, that just seemed like an obvious way, a [big] part of fandom is collectibles."
Hamill has also offered up his iconic voice for Ukraine's Air Alert mobile app as one of the English voices that alerts Ukrainian citizens of incoming Russian air strikes.
'Rising up against an evil empire'
The actor has pointed out the similarities between Star Wars and Ukraine's efforts to resist Putin's invasion.
Star Wars is “a story of oppressed people rising up against an evil empire... a fairy tale that resonates in cultures all around the world,” he said. “It’s impossible not to see the connections between what is, on one hand, a fantasy and, on the other, is a harsh reality.”
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) February 17, 2023
The United24 ambassador also stressed the role that every person can play in the war effort.
"The 'Star Wars' films were relentlessly optimistic — they gave you the idea that any person, even some unassuming farm boy, could achieve greatness if they do the right thing, for the right reason, not for themselves or self-aggrandizement, but for the greater good of society," Hamill said. "If people can put themselves in this unimaginable scenario, I think they’re in the right frame of mind to do what they can to help when help is so desperately needed."
Ukrainian officials already signaled their expectations to spend close to $540 million on drone technology in 2023. According to the United24 website, over 1,400 drones in a variety of makes and models have already been purchased.
"Everyone predicted Ukraine would fold in four days because it’s the David and Goliath story — how they could withstand this massive invasion?" Hamill said. "Instead, they’ve rallied, and their resilience has been heroic and inspirational. I’m humbled to be part of such a great effort."