Alicia and Herman Lopez remember how much their son Hunter loved all things Star Wars, even telling his parents before deploying that he wanted to be buried with the lightsaber he built at Disneyland Park in November 2019.
Less than two years later, a 22-year-old naval chief. Hunter Lopez is being laid to rest, one of 13 members of the American service killed in the attack on Kabul airport in Afghanistan on August 26.
Her parents intended to honor Hunter’s request, “but I couldn’t find the courage to part with the lightsaber he built,” Mrs. Lopez said through tears. So the Lopezes, along with their 18-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, just six days after Hunter’s death, left their home in Indio to build a replica of the lightsaber that Hunter had created. in the workshop of Savi a Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. And this one, built by his whole family, would be buried with him.
“When we walked into Disneyland, the band was out on the main street [U.S.A.] and started playing in Star Wars song, “Mrs. Lopez recalled.” We don’t know if it was Disney magic or if it was Hunter, but it felt good to know he was there with us anyway. “
A friend of the couple, who both work in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, helped the family build the lightsaber privately at Savi’s, followed by a lunch at the members ’restaurant, Club 33, at to which the friend belongs. As soon as Rex Roberts, coordinator of services to Club 33 members, learned that the family would come later that day, he advised a few resort leaders to see what else they could do, given Disney’s legacy of honoring military service personnel, veterans and their families. Members of SALUTE, the member of the Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) cast that supports veterans and the military, connected with Dan Hughes, the complex’s vice president of security.
“We grabbed the American flag that flew over Disneyland and quickly framed it and created a plaque, so we could present it to the family,” Dan shared. In 90 minutes, I was going to Club 33. “I said, ‘Your child’s sacrifice means the world to our country and also to us at Disneyland, and it’s an honor to give you this show of our gratitude,'” , Reported Dan. “Mrs. Lopez broke down in tears and said, ‘My son loved Disneyland’ and the whole room drowned.”
Mrs. Lopez later said the family has been around for decades and that Hunter has loved coming to the parks since he was a small child: the cups of tea spinning at Mad Tea Party were his favorites. He loved both Winnie the Pooh and a child his mother still called the Navy by her nickname “Hunter Pooh.” But Star Wars it was her passion, she said. “He had disguised himself as a Jedi for Halloween, he knew all the movies, all the lines, even the background characters.” Mrs. Lopez laughed when she remembered that when she was pregnant with her second child, Hunter, then five years old, she asked if she could call the baby “Uncle Owen” like that. Star Wars character Owen Lars. They agreed to keep Owen’s name and laughed as they explained to Hunter why they should drop “uncle.” In fact, Owen had enlisted in the military a few hours before the family received a knock on the door from victim notification officers about Hunter, who had wanted to follow in his parents ’footsteps to enforce the law with the department. of the Riverside County Sheriff.
At Club 33, 13 glasses of champagne lined up at the service counter on the day of the Lopez family’s visit as a tribute to the 13 service members lost last month.
“Disneyland has to do with celebration and happiness, so we don’t often see or hear that in our work,” said Luke Stedman, general manager of Club 33. “But in this divisive world, when we can all come together and to support something so significant, it’s a reminder of the pride our cast can have in what this place means to people. ”