South Jersey veteran's Star Wars hobby is out of this world

WINSLOW TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I think, as a younger man, I definitely struggled with identity and what I was supposed to do after the military," said Thomas Hunter.

The United States Army veteran was deployed three times, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when he returned home, much had changed.

"You no longer have purpose, you no longer have direction," he said. "It's really up to you to find that."

Hunter first found it in woodworking. But that hobby stepped aside last year following a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The new themed area known as "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" reunited a childhood fire in him.

"As a 37 year old man who's been to combat this is what gives me goosebumps, right," he said.

Hunter learned how to build dioramas of Star Wars-inspired locations in order to frame his action figures. Using his photography skills, he began creating blockbuster-style images on a miniature scale.

"They're not movie sets, they're not digital recreations," he said. "They're dioramas that I create here in my office."

Using the Instagram name, @old.tom.solo, Hunter was able to connect with other fans who participate in the same hobby. It has helped him mitigate the challenges of living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's finding that sense of camaraderie, that sense of belonging again," he said.

Disney is the parent company of both Star Wars and 6abc WPVI-TV.

RELATED: "I think, as a younger man, I definitely struggled with identity and what I was supposed to do after the military," said Thomas Hunter.

The United States Army veteran was deployed three times, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when he returned home, much had changed.

"You no longer have purpose, you no longer have direction," he said. "It's really up to you to find that."

Hunter first found it in woodworking. But that hobby stepped aside last year following a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The new themed area known as "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" reignited a childhood spark in him.

"As a 37 year old man who's been to combat, this is what gives me goosebumps, right," he said.

Hunter learned how to build dioramas of Star Wars-inspired locations in order to frame his action figures. Using his photography skills, he began creating blockbuster-style images on a miniature scale.

"They're not movie sets, they're not digital recreations," he said. "They're dioramas that I create here in my office."

Using the Instagram name, @old.tom.solo, Hunter was able to connect with other fans who participate in the same hobby. It has helped him mitigate the challenges of living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's finding that sense of camaraderie, that sense of belonging again," he said.

Today's date brings to mind a famous phrase, "May the Force be with you." Thus, Star Wars is celebrated around the world on May the fourth.

Disney is the parent company of both Star Wars and 6abc WPVI-TV.

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