Some people spend their whole lives not knowing their biological parents.
Olivia Robles Mauger’s life was like that somehow. She grew-up with her mom and a man that she thought was her father until she was 10 years old, when she realized he was her stepfather.
Gary Barnes, a Vietnam vet, was thousands of miles away. He had a similar story. At 78, he thought he didn’t have any children of his own until a woman named Olivia called him in 2017 and asked if he would be willing to do a DNA test.
Gary agreed, and that’s when he learned that he actually had a daughter—and it was the stranger who had called him.
Olivia spent most of her life searching for her father.
“I always knew I had a dad out there somewhere,” she told WTSP.
Ancestry.com was her first step to finding out her true ethnicity. She had submitted a DNA test years prior to that. She knew that she was born in the Philippines and had no other information about her family.
Unexpectedly Olivia found a DNA match that linked her to distant cousins. This helped her connect with her biological father.
“The next thing you know, she’s sending me a picture of my dad and the resemblance between my youngest son Ryan and my dad — it was so compelling,” Olivia said.
Gary spent much of his downtime during the war in the Philippines, where he met Olivia’s mom. They were able to date for a while before they lost touch when the soldier returned to Vietnam.
“I never even knew she was pregnant,” he said.
After confirming their relationship through DNA testing, Olivia flew to California in November 2017 for her father’s visit. The mother of three said their meeting was “like twins reuniting.”
“This is truly a miracle; I’ve been on this quest for so many years since I was 10 years old, and here we find each other at age 50 and 78, so it’s a miracle,” Olivia said at the time.
“For individuals who have always had their parents all their lives, it’s just something a lot of people really take for granted,” she said. “You have that longing.”
The following month, it was Gary’s turn. He boarded a plane to fly to Tampa to meet his grandsons and great-grandson. It was only Gary and Olivia’s second meeting, but both consider it the greatest Christmas gift they have ever received.
“I never thought in a million years I’d know who my grandpa was,” Ryan Robles said.
All three of the boys have military backgrounds, which is a coincidence. Olivia’s oldest served in the Army, the middle-born was in the Coast Guard, and the youngest is a cadet at West Point.
“They say everything happens for a reason so there’s all the reasons I look back on that had brought us together today and it’s just such a feeling of being blessed,” Olivia said.
Gary had a quiet life. But, he realized he actually had people to call his family. He even had the opportunity to meet Olivia in New York, as Olivia’s youngest was finishing up her first year. He was given the honor of pinning his grandson’s first badge—one soldier to another.
Gary’s life became complete when he met them.
“More important than anything in life there is family,” the retiree said.
Learn more about Olivia and Gary’s heartwarming reunion story in the video below.
Did you enjoy this positive, uplifting story? You can support our site by simply subscribing and sharing our stories to friends and family.