Army veteran Thomas Hunter’s Star Wars hobby is out of this world

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WINSLOW TOWNSHIP, NJ — “I think as a young man I really struggled with my identity and what I was supposed to do after the military,” Thomas Hunter said.

The US Army veteran has been deployed three times, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when he returned home, a lot had changed.

“You no longer have a goal, you no longer have a direction,” he said. “It’s really up to you to find that.”

Hunter first discovered it in woodworking. But that hobby retired last year after a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The new themed area known as “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” has gathered a fire of childhood within it.

“As a 37-year-old man who’s fought, that’s what gives me goosebumps, isn’t it,” he said.

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

“These are not movie sets, these are not digital recreations,” he said. “These are dioramas that I create here in my office.”

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

“It’s getting that sense of camaraderie back, that sense of belonging,” he said.

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