Travel restrictions could delay some soldiers return home, homecoming ceremonies suspended

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- The COVID-19 pandemic could start affecting soldiers looking to return home from their tours, as a result of some new Department of Defense guidelines.

For Whitley Lyons, she says it's already thrown a wrench into her husband's plans to return home from Afghanistan.

Whitley's husband, Staff Sergeant Tanner Lyons has just completed his first deployment and was planning to fly back to Fort Bragg with his unit this Wednesday or Friday; however, that was quickly met with cancellations.

"I'm disappointed because I wanted him to come home. It's been a long-awaited time for him to come home," Whitley said.

The veteran says the latest travel ban to stop the spread of COVID-19 led to some confusion, and that means he's still not home.

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"(I'm) Worried that if he lingers over there longer he might be stuck for a longer period of time than either one of us want," Whitley added.

On Wednesday, the DOD announced new travel restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

These restrictions, which are set to begin on Friday, prohibit service members, DOD civilians or families to travel to, from, or through level 3 locations, as designated by the CDC. The level 3 locations include Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea, according to the CDC.

An 82nd Airborne Division spokesperson said no current flights have been directly affected by the coronavirus, but that's not out of the question in the future.

Whitley also learned on Thursday afternoon that Fort Bragg officials have indefinitely suspended "Welcome Home Ceremonies" at the Green Ramp to help minimize the spread of the virus.

The mother of one was ready to bring a hired photographer to the homecoming event this week to see SSG Lyons walk down the ramp.

While she understands the need for precaution and is still trying to learn why the flights were cancelled, Whitley is just hoping her husband returns sooner rather than later.

She says her 2-year-old son is ready to replace his "Dada doll" with the real deal.

"He sleeps with it every night and kisses it and I tell him, 'Dada will be home soon'. And he tells me every night that he misses dada and he's going to give dada a big hug when he comes home," Whitley said.

Fort Bragg officials have not been able to confirm why the flights were cancelled.

Whitley hopes she can roll out the red carpet for her husband soon.
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