(NEW YORK) — Capt. Hank Hughes, a decorated platoon leader, served twice in Afghanistan but now has left the military to find a new career. Many others are doing the same: Last year 180,000 troops retired from the military, and this year that number is expected to increase to 300,000.
“You return home in a bit of a time machine,” Hughes told ABC News. “Everyone else has moved on, and you’ve just arrived.”
Since he was a kid, Hughes dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. Growing up, Hughes’ favorite movies were Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
In college he majored in film but put his dreams on hold for his country. Now, back at home, he’s studying to become a director. Hughes says his dream is to make movies for the rest of his life.
As part of the series “Standing Up for Heroes,” ABC News worked to find Hughes a mentor who could guide him along his new path. And help came from an American movie legend, the man who created the movies Hughes had admired and adored since childhood: George Lucas.
“These guys are heroes, and we need to help them,” Lucas told ABC News.
During their first meeting, Lucas started right in with the lessons.
“The first thing you do is come up with an idea,” Lucas told Hughes. “The secret of directing is to be persistent.”
Most important, Lucas explains, is to enjoy the work you are doing. Lucas even revealed new details to Hughes about the original Star Wars films.
“It wasn’t done as a trilogy, it was really done as one movie,” Lucas told Hughes. “The script was like 250 pages, and I couldn’t crush it down … so I cut it in three pieces and then it became a sequel.”
Hughes described the first meeting with his mentor as “unbelievable.”
“It’s amazing that George Lucas would … take that time out of his day to talk to me just because I was a veteran,” he said. “I don’t know if I could articulate an equal to his action in gratitude. It’s fantastic.”
The two will meet again in September so that Hughes can show Lucas the movie he is working on in film school. And just like Yoda and Luke Skywalker, their relationship will go on.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
Eric Levenson, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com