FREEPORT, NY — A Long Island family is grieving this Christmas as they try to bring their loved one's body home from China.
Norman Easy, a retired Lt. Colonel, died as he flew to China for business on Dec. 7.
"All we know is that he died in his sleep," son Marcus Easy said from the family's Freeport home.
As the family looks for answers, they have had a hard time getting China to return the Iraq War Veteran. Adding to their heartache, Christmas Eve was also Easy's birthday. He would have been 58.
So the community decided to bring Christmas to them. That included presents and a tree with all the trimmings.
Easy's wife Nitxia welled up with tears as she talked about her husband. She said he was a giving and wonderful person. She also expressed gratitude for an outpouring of support.
"I just want to say thank you. You can see that it is a blessing. It is a blessing that the community has been able to be here with us," she said.
Lynbrook Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker helped trim the tree.
"Norman was a great American and the family is going through a very, very difficult time right now," Becker said. "So whatever we can do to help them out, enjoy Christmas and more importantly bring their Dad back."
Easy was also a Jets fan. And when former Jets wide receiver Wesley Walker heard about what happened, he wanted to help.
"We're just so happy to be able to give back to the family. It's a trying time and during Christmas," Walker said.
What is even more upsetting for this family, is that they said they had to sign documents that they aren't protesting China's official account of what happened. Only then, the country told them, would they release Easy's body. The Easy family has been working with the State Department and a private contractor to bring Norman home.
"We're just hoping to have him back soon so that we can really start the grieving process and give him the proper burial he deserves," his daughter Caitlin said.