PUNTA GORDA, FLA — Service and sacrifice go hand in hand for military families.
That fact is why reunions between service members and their loved ones mean so much.
"To be able to whole again and have your family back together is just one of the greatest feelings in the world," said Bethany Lee.
But Lee, who lives in Punta Gorda, says her family won't get one with her husband Lt. Andrew lee anytime soon.
"Because of coronavirus we have not been able to have that reunion and that welcome home, homecoming moment," she said.
The lieutenant is a U.S. Naval Aviator, who is currently stationed in Japan.
"We said goodbye on January 3rd and will go a consecutive 349 days without him," said Mrs. Lee.
Mrs. Lee says their physical separation wasn't supposed to be this long.
Lt. Lee should be with them in Charlotte county right now, for a month long break and to wish one of their four kids a happy birthday in person.
"My little girl prayed every night for months that her daddy would get to home for her birthday and she turned 7 yesterday and she blew out her candle and her wish didn't come true," said Mrs. Lee.
Despite the fact that he's just wrapped up a deployment, he's still stuck in Japan, because of record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Those numbers are troubling to Lt. Lee's command staff, who aren't allowing anyone to travel to the U.S. at this time. And it's likely they won't change their minds until they see the numbers going down for at least 14 consecutive days.
It's a situation that Mrs. Lee begging people to take the virus, and the CDC's guidelines, seriously for themselves and others.
"To see someone using the defense of their constitutional rights not to wear that mask and not to stop the spread of this virus is a slap in the face to families like mine and it is not patriotism," said Mrs. Lee.
She adds that as of now, the soonest they'll see Lt. Lee, if they're lucky, will be just in time for Christmas.