JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Vietnam veteran was reunited Thursday with the daughter he never knew he had.
Kenneth Bender Sr., 72, met his daughter, 46-year-old Melissa Porter, for the first time at the Jacksonville International Airport after a MyHeritage DNA test. Bender is retired after his service in the Air Force and now lives in Fernandina Beach.
Bender has a son and two grandchildren who live in Fernandina Beach as well, but never knew about his daughter.
"Little bit in shock to find out after all these years that I have a daughter," he said.
He told New4Jax he's been through two tours in Vietnam, a hit-and-run accident and multiple strokes throughout his life.
"I think I’m supposed to survive because there was somebody missing in my life, something missing," Bender said. "I survived to find out that I’ve got a daughter."
It wasn't until April when Bender first learned he had a daughter.
Porter had been searching for her father her entire life and decided to take the MyHeritage DNA test in April. She matched with a first cousin who lives in Georgia and discovered her father.
"I finally have the answers that I guess I’ve been searching for pretty much my entire life," Porter said.
Porter's mother met Bender in Michigan and told him he wasn't the father after she became pregnant. When Porter was 13, she learned that Bender was indeed her real father, but was only told his name.
"I wasn’t actually expecting to find my father, but I did￼," she said.
Porter also met her brother, Kenneth Jr. and his two children at the airport.
Porter has grandchildren, making Bender a great-grandfather. He said he's looking forward to meeting his grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the future.