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70-year-old man adopted from Japan discovers whole family in Ohio through DNA test

Michael Bennett has uncovered a world -- and a happy ending -- he never fully imagined.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The advent of DNA test kits has helped millions of people discover intricate details of their heritage. 

They've also uncovered hundreds of thousands of family secrets that some parents preferred would have stayed hidden. 

But in Fort Worth, Michael Bennett has uncovered a world -- and a happy ending -- he never fully imagined.

"My parents never hid the fact that I was adopted," Bennett, 70, told us from his Fort Worth home, where one room is filled with the memorabilia, commendations and photographs of a rewarding military career. 

And in one corner, a picture of a 3-year-old boy in Japan who was about to start that life in America.

He was adopted by an American couple in the early 1950s. He knew that his biological parents were a Japanese woman in post-WWII occupied Japan and an American serviceman -- the usual story he assumed.

"There are so many kids that pop up after conflict, after wars. And I was one of them," Bennett said.

But his adoptive parents made sure he knew who his real mom was. 

Her name was Yoshiko Nakajima. And alone in Japan with a mixed-race baby in an unaccepting country for that at the time, Bennett knows she did what she thought was right.

"That she was a single mom and wanted the best for me. And thought that the best for me would be to be raised in America," he said.

So, fast forward some 60 years as only-child Michael Bennett grows up in the U.S., joins the Army, becomes a Green Beret, travels the world and raises an American family of his own.

"I've had a blessed life. I'm real happy with how things turned out for me," he said.

But at the age of 68, he wanted to know more.

He turned to 23andMe to figure out who he really was. It was no big surprise to him that his DNA screening told him that he was half Japanese, half Anglo European.

But then the first direct message arrived in the 23andMe app.

"It was someone who said 'hey, we have a lot of DNA in common and I don't know who you are. I know all my family. I don't know who you are.'"

Normally an introvert who values his privacy, Bennett says he was surprised at first that he chose to reply. But, he is so glad he did.

The person who messaged him was someone in Cincinnati, Ohio. And then, the next questions came.

"Is your mother's name Yoshiko Nakajima," he says the person messaged him "Were you born in Japan in the 1950s," he said they asked next.

"That was a big 'aha' moment. I was like, they have my mother's name!" Bennett said.

"Hey, we know who your father is," the person wrote. "And you have a huge family and they all want to talk to you."

"What did that do to you, honestly," I asked him.

"Oh it really, really knocked me for a loop," Bennett said.

"You're an only child," I said. "Or so you thought?"

"So it really, yeah it really floored me," Bennett replied.

Several hours later, he was talking to a woman named Robin Reed. And she turned the rest of his world upside down.

"I can't see the top of your face," she said in a FaceTime conversation -- Mike from Fort Worth and Robin from Cincinnati.

"You know what it looks like. It looks just like yours," he replied, as they both laughed.

Because Reed's version of the story goes like this:

She said his late father, their father, was a man named Dick Webster: a man who told a sad story his entire life. 

Reed, as a young child, stayed up late at night and would hear her father talking about what happened when he was a young serviceman in Japan. He'd fallen in love with a woman named Yoshiko Nakajima, they had a son and he re-enlisted for another three-year stint in the Air Force so he would have a chance to stay with them in Japan. 

But, the Air Force shipped him back to the states anyway. He was a low-ranking airman without the means or clout to stop the transfer. And once he learned his son had been adopted, he was never able to find him again.

"He was broken-hearted," his daughter said. "He was a broken-hearted man over losing his family in Japan."

But Dick Webster did his best to move on when his time in the Air Force ended. He started a family in Ohio. But the memories remained.

"That picture of that little boy stayed with me all these years," Reed said of the photos her father kept. "That head full of black hair and those beautiful dark eyes stayed with me all these years and I wanted to know where my brother was."

Both of Bennett's biological parents died before he could meet them. But, there were several other people he could meet.

Within hours of learning who his biological father was, Bennett was on the road making the 14-hour drive to Cincinnati. And waiting for him, seven brothers and sisters, including Reed, who were standing in the front yard to greet him.

"I don't know if they're all huggers but they were that day," he said. "And I am not, but I was. So go figure!"

And they told him he looks more like their dad than any of them.

"Oh my gosh it was like looking at a ghost. It was like 'oh my gosh,'" Reed said. "And to be able to physically see him, talk to him, hug him, that's powerful," she said, fighting back tears.

"Yeah we really wanted to find him," said Rick Webster, one of Michael Bennett's newfound brothers.

Rick, and his brother, Samson Webster, both spent time in the Air Force and at different times in their careers were also in Japan. At their dad's request, they'd searched for Bennett but were never able to pick up the trail.

"I thank the Lord above that we got in touch before the end of our days," Samson Webster said.

"We pick you Mike and you picked us. And I thank you so much for that." he said.

"Thank you brother. Love you," Bennett replied in a recent Zoom conversation.

"I love you more," Samson Webster said.

"Love you man," Rick Webster replied.

Not all DNA stories end like this. 

Those test kits have unearthed unspoken family secrets by the tens of thousands. But this one has a Fort Worth veteran texting almost daily to his newfound siblings and talking on the phone as often as they can.

"You know I'm kind of that curmudgeon set in his ways. But it's opened up a whole new world for me...of family," Bennett said.

"Because he is a part of us. He is one of us. He is a part of us. He belongs to us. And we love him," Reed said.

"Thank you sister," Bennett replied.

"I'll tell you the one thing it has changed for me, from that family perspective, oddly enough is, I get to be a big brother," Bennett told us. "And I cherish that. I'm having a great time."

"Well we love you very much Mike," Reed said. "And we feel so blessed to have found you. And I don't want to miss another moment."

The next moment, with plenty of hugging, is scheduled for Fort Worth in June.

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