Vietnam vet’s life became complete when he met daughter and grandsons he never knew existed

Some people spend their entire lives never knowing who their biological parents are.

Olivia Robles Mauger’s life was like that somehow. She grew up with her mom and a man she thought was her real dad until age 10 when she found out he was actually her stepfather.

Thousands of miles away, Vietnam veteran Gary Barnes had a similar story to tell. 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.

Olivia Robles Mauger and Gary Barnes
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Gary agreed, and that’s when he learned that he actually had a daughter—and it was the stranger who had called him.

Olivia had lived most of her life trying to find her real father.

“I always knew I had a dad out there somewhere,” she told WTSP.

Olivia Robles Mauger and Gary Barnes
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It started with a DNA test that she submitted to Ancestry.com years before to find out her true ethnicity. All she knew was that she was born in the Philippines, but there was not much else she knew about her background.

Unexpectedly, Olivia ended up with a DNA match that connected her to distant cousins, who then helped her connect with her biological dad.

“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 dated for a while, but when the soldier was shipped out back to Vietnam, they lost touch and never saw each other again.

“I never even knew she was pregnant,” he said.

Olivia Robles Mauger's family
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After a DNA test confirmed their relationship, Olivia wasted no time and traveled to California in November 2017 to see her dad. 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 hopped on a plane and traveled to Tampa to meet his three grandsons and his 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.

Coincidentally, the three boys all have military backgrounds. Olivia’s oldest served in the Army, the middle-born was in the Coast Guard, and the youngest is a cadet at West Point.

Men in the military
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“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 was leading a quiet life, but all of that changed when he discovered he actually had people he could call his family. He even got the chance to join Olivia in New York, where her youngest was finishing up his 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.

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