LDS missionary welcomed home, while practicing social distancing

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 21:36:42-04

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. (KGTV) It wasn't the usual welcome home party for Tyler Priest, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

"I didn't think this many people would show up," he explained. "Because everyone is scared in their house, but this is really nice to see everyone."

Priest was welcomed home, drive-thru style, in the parking lot of Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center Monday.

He sat on a truck as family and friends drove by welcoming him home, staying at least six feet away.

Priest was on his LDS mission in the Philippines and completed 20 of 24 months he set out to serve, before he was ordered to return home due to coronavirus concerns.

"This last Tuesday the government in the Philippines told us all foreigners need to leave," he explained. "We flew through Japan, didn't get off the plane, then through Salt Lake to San Diego."

Priest returned home late Sunday night, he said he was checked for COVID-19 symptoms several times before arriving in San Diego.

"They did check our temperatures too many times, but I guess better safe than sorry, makes sense," he said.

Although his return home was abrupt, his family is more than thrilled to have him back. It has been a difficult year for them all.

"While Tyler was gone his dad passed away and the community has been so sweet," said his mother, Ginny Priest. "Even in this super crazy time it's been nice to show their love from a distance."

California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Latulippe was there for the Priest family when Shawn Priest, Tyler's father, was killed in a car crash.

"He was the one who came to tell me about my husband and stayed with me and my family throughout the day," Ginny Priest explained.

Ginny Priest said she didn't know Latulippe before her husband passed away.

Shawn Priest and Latulippe played softball together and were good friends. Now, Latulippe has become part of the family.

"He's just so much more than an officer," said Ginny Priest. "I'm just really grateful that someone who understood loss could help us through that situation, so he's really special to us."

"His family has been through a lot in the last year, and we miss his dad very much," said Latulippe.

He was once again there for the Priest family Monday, to not only welcome Tyler home, but to make sure everyone was being safe during this time of uncertainty.

"Everybody has driven by and has been responsible with it and trying to abide by the social distancing recommendations," said Latulippe.

"It's nice to be home," said Tyler Priest.

He will now self-isolate for the next two weeks.