When Vietnam War veteran Gary Barnes received a call one day in 2017, he couldn’t have anticipated who was on the other end of the line: the daughter he never knew he had. As it turns out, the now 50-year-old woman had been conceived during his time in the service.
To understand this unexpected discovery, we need to travel back in time to 1966, when Barnes was a US Navy sailor serving in Vietnam. During his downtime, he traveled to the Philippines, where he met a woman named Filapina. The two hit it off, but they didn’t keep in touch after he was called back to duty.
“I never even knew she was pregnant,” Barnes later told WTSP.
Following his military service, Barnes returned to the United States and married a woman named Caryl. The two eventually settled in Grass Valley, California. They never had any children of their own.
While Barnes was living his life with Caryl, Filapina was raising a young daughter named Olivia Robles. The child was born in the Philippines in 1967 and relocated with her family to the US when she was six years old. Her family seemed like any other – that is, until Robles learned something just four years later. As it turns out, the man she believed to be her biological father was, in fact, her stepfather.
In 2014, Robles decided to submit a sample of her DNA to Ancestry.com. Not long after, she was notified that a match had been made to a woman in Alabama named Diana. Her relation? She was Barnes’ cousin, and just a few months earlier had submitted her own DNA to the same website as Robles.
Robles reached out to Diana, who was able to shed some light on the identity of her father. She revealed Barnes had spent time in the Philippines while serving in the Vietnam War, and even sent Robles a photo of him. She was shocked. The man in the image looked almost identical to her youngest son.
In 2017, Robles took the bold step of calling Barnes. To confirm their suspicions, he sent off a sample of his DNA and, to his surprise, it was a match. Speaking with The Union, Robles said, “It just all fell together, like that missing piece of the puzzle all my life. It was amazing.”
After their relationship was confirmed, the pair agreed to meet. It wasn’t long before Barnes learned his new family extended past his daughter. He had three grandsons, all of whom have military backgrounds, and a great-grandson. Robles even reunited him with her mother.
During their first holiday together, Barnes was able to celebrate his youngest grandson graduating from West Point. It was a special moment for him, as he shared with WTSP. “I got to pin his first badge on him and it’s too difficult to even describe the emotions I felt,” he said. “What an honor, and after eight years of military service myself and being a Vietnam veteran, I just walked the halls of West Point in amazement.
In what one could only describe as a fairytale ending to this rather remarkable story, Robles eventually relocated to California. What’s more, she was able to find a job within driving distance of her father’s home.