ANAHEIM (CBSLA) — Marine Corporal Hunter Lopez loved all things Star Wars and was a regular visitor to Disneyland since he was a young child, even gaining the nickname "Hunter Pooh."
So when Disneyland officials got word that the family of the young Marine, who was among the dozens killed in an Aug. 26 bombing in Afghanistan, were headed for the park to build a new lightsaber to be buried with him, they jumped into action.
A family friend arranged for the family to build the lightsaber privately at Savi's in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, followed by lunch at the membership restaurant, Club 33, where the Lopez family arrived to find 13 glasses of champagne were lined up in tribute to all 13 service members who were lost in the attack. During their lunch, they were also presented with Disneyland's own American flag in a frame and with a plaque.
"I said, 'Your son's sacrifice means the world to our country and also to us at Disneyland, it's our honor to give you this token of our appreciation,'" recounted Dan Hughes, vice president of security at Disneyland.
Lopez had built his lightsaber at Disneyland in November of 2019, and had told his parents before he deployed that, if the worst should happen, he wanted to be buried with it.
"But I just couldn't find the courage to part with the lightsaber he built," Alicia Lopez told Disneyland officials. So the family went to the park just six days after he died to build a new lightsaber – a replica of the one Hunter Lopez built, assembled by his entire family, to be buried with him.
Disneyland is known as the Happiest Place On Earth, so mourning a loved one is not generally part of the Disney experience.
"Disneyland is all about celebration and happiness, so it's not often that we see or hear this in our work," Club 33 General Manager Luke Stedman said in a statement. "But in this divisive world, when we can all come together and support something so meaningful, it's a reminder of how much pride our cast can take in what this means to people."
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