Woman Finds Her Birth Father After 20+ Years of Searching

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Thanks to MyHeritage DNA, a woman from Michigan gave the surprise of a lifetime to an army veteran in Florida: she was his daughter, and she had been searching for him for 23 years.

Watch their moving reunion here:

Melissa Porter, 47, was raised by a single mother in Dallas, Texas. When she was 13, her mother revealed to her that her father’s name was Kenneth Bender, but didn’t give her any information beyond that. As a teenager, Melissa moved back to Michigan, where she was born, to live with her grandparents. Melissa’s grandmother told her that her father had served in the Navy.

In 1996, Melissa began actively searching for her father. She scoured the Navy archives and other military records and online services, but with no success.

Finally, last April, she decided to take a MyHeritage DNA test… and received a match to a first cousin living in Georgia. She checked the cousin’s family tree, and there he was — Kenneth Bender, her father. She discovered that he had later married and had a son, so she reached out to her half-brother — Kenneth Jr. — via social media. After 23 years of searching, Melissa finally found her father.

It turned out that Kenneth met Melissa’s maternal grandfather in a bar shortly after Kenneth was released from duty during the Vietnam War. The pair hit it off, and Kenneth ended up working for Melissa’s grandfather and renting a room in his house. It was there that he met Melissa’s mother. But the couple broke up after she became pregnant and told Kenneth that he wasn’t the father.

Kenneth, Melissa’s father, serving in the army

Kenneth joined the Air Force and served until his retirement, which he now enjoys in Florida. During his service, he married and had a son. He never imagined that Melissa’s mother hadn’t told him the truth, and was shocked and delighted to learn that he had a daughter.

On August 1, 2019, Melissa boarded her first-ever flight to travel down to Jacksonville Airport in Florida, and there she met her father and half-brother for the first time.

“All these years, I felt that something was missing in my life,” says Kenneth. “MyHeritage DNA resolved that issue.”

“I’ve been kept alive for a reason,” he goes on. “To find out that I have a daughter.”

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