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I won’t be home for Christmas: COVID ruins surprise military homecoming

Published: Dec. 25, 2020 at 6:10 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - At least one surprise military reunion, nearly a year in the making, has been spoiled by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

When Michaela Hochschild first contacted WITN News, it was to share a special story about her daughter’s plan to surprise her dad the week of Christmas.

Airman 1st Class Taylor Hochschild is in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in California. They haven’t seen her in nearly a year; right before the pandemic began.

“I was even letting her know, ‘Don’t waste any of your leave time for the summer. Just wait until the holidays. Come home,’” said James Hochschild, Taylor’s dad and a retired sergeant major in the Marine Corps, “That was the plan.”

That plan changed just days before Taylor was supposed to come home. Her roommate tested positive for COVID-19, so she had to quarantine.

“That would’ve been everything,” said James.

This is the second Christmas in a row Taylor has missed.

She was in basic training during the holidays last year. Last November was the last time she was home in Jacksonville.

Since then, her baby brother, Landon, was born. They’ve never met.

“We just wanted to see her, and spend time with her, and not have to do it virtually,” said Michaela. “We’re one of many families who are facing the same thing. And, hopefully, it’s just this one.”

Now, Taylor is in isolation until she is cleared from her coronavirus exposure. She’s having limited interaction with anyone outside of food and package deliveries.

She hasn’t tested positive, but the U.S. Air Force requires that people who are exposed remain in isolation to be safe.

“Our commander was allowing us to go home because he knew that none of us had been home,” said Taylor, while talking to her family via video on Christmas Day. “I just miss being around my actual family, running around with my siblings, and listening to my dad crack jokes all day.”

It’s a 2020 Christmas reality. While traditions triumph, the Hochschild’s are missing a giant part of their heart thousands of miles away from where she belongs, gathered beneath the tree with her family.

“Christmas is the time you’re supposed to be with family,” said James. “The part I can’t get over is just she’s going to be by herself.”

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