Michael Bennett bought a 23andMe DNA test kit in 2018 in order to understand more about his family’s medical history. But what he found was more than he had anticipated: a whole new family waiting for him.
Michael, 70, was born in occupied Japan after WWII in 1951. Yoshiko Nakajima, a Japanese woman, is his real mother, and Dick Webster, an American serviceman, is his biological father.
Michael was adopted by a couple in the United States when he was three years old, in 1953. That was all he knew about his biological parents.
“I had a wonderful childhood. He told TODAY, “I adored my parents.”
Michael went on to join the Army, become a Green Beret, and build a family in the United States.
Michael, who resides in Fort Worth, Texas, received a message from Damien, a young man from Cincinnati, Ohio, on the 23andMe app in 2019.
“It was someone who said, ‘Hey, we share a lot of DNA and I have no idea who you are.’ My entire family is familiar to me. “I have no idea who you are,” he told KENS 5.
Michael responded by telling his story and mentioning that he had Japanese relatives. Then there were more inquiries.
“Is Yoshiko Nakajima your mother’s name?” “Did you grow up in Japan during the 1950s?” Next, Damien inquired.
Michael’s ‘aha’ moment came when he saw his mother’s name on the screen.
Damien said, “Hey, we know who your father is.” “Plus, you have a large family who all want to speak with you.”
Michael was on the phone with Damien’s aunt, Robin Reid, a few hours later. For him, that phone call opened up a whole new universe.
Michael, an only child, found in Ohio that he had seven half-siblings, including Robin. She even had a photo of him as a small child.
“That young boy’s picture has lingered with me all these years,” Robin remarked of their father’s photos. “All these years, that head full of black hair and those gorgeous dark eyes stuck with me, and I wondered where my brother was.”
Dick Webster, Robin’s late father, tried everything he could to keep Michael and his mother in Japan. To be with them, he re-enlisted in the Air Force for another three-year tour. However, the Air Force returned him to the United States.
Dick was a low-ranking airman with little power to prevent the transfer. He never saw his son after learning he had been adopted.
“He was heartbroken,” Robin explained. “He was heartbroken about the loss of his family in Japan.”
He would discover love again in Alma Jean, with whom he had been married for decades. He never forgot about the family he left behind in Japan, though. He even dispatched two of his kids on a mission to find them in the 1980s.
The mother and son had left, but the brothers had gathered information for their father. They learnt from the locals that Yoshiko had placed Michael for adoption in order to protect him. He was the only child she had.
Yoshiko died in the year 2017.
“She realized it was going to be difficult for me as a mixed-race child with a single mother in post-World War II Japan,” Michael said. “She did what she did out of love, without a doubt.”
Michael and his wife, Mari, drove 14 hours to Cincinnati to meet his long-lost family just days after his life-changing call with Robin.
When Michael’s siblings came, they were all standing on the front lawn, ready to meet him with hugs.
“I’m not sure if they’re all huggers, but they were that day,” he said of the memorable occasion. “I wasn’t, but I was.” So, what gives?”
“It may sound ridiculous, but if you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know how much you want to look into their eyes again,” Robin said of meeting Michael. “It felt like I was reunited with my father.” He sees with his eyes. It was the most soothing sensation on the planet.”
Michael has kept in touch with his family and has celebrated holidays with them since then.
“From a family viewpoint, the one thing that has changed for me is that I get to be a big brother,” Michael explained. “I treasure that.” I’m really enjoying myself.”
The siblings will meet again in June in Fort Worth. And it will almost certainly be another hug-filled reunion.
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