OCTOBER 2019: (GREEN) Our Town Gwinnett/Walton Monthly Magazine

Page 13

From War to Family: A Story of New Beginnings By Kristen Eleveld A few years ago, Michelle Reed was inspired to find out a little more about her family history. Her ex-husband, who was adopted, wanted to see if he could find his birth parents, and turned to a DNA test and genealogy website to learn more about his past. Michelle, who has over twenty years of experience as a genealogist, decided to join him, thinking she might find out some interesting new facts about her own history. What she didn’t expect was to find another member of her family. In 2017, she and her younger brother, Kevin Brunell, who had also taken the DNA test, received a message that their DNA profile had matched with someone else on the registry, meaning this person was closely related to them. The message was from someone they had never met, and this person asked if Michelle and Kevin had any close relatives who served in the Vietnam War. Both their father and uncle had served, but it was through Kevin’s connection that he and Michelle discovered they had a half-brother, Peter Pham. While their father had passed away a year earlier, Michelle, Kevin, and Peter decided to meet. Michelle and Kevin flew down to Georgia to spend time with Peter, where they learned more about their newfound family. When Michelle went back to Michigan, she realized that she wasn’t satisfied to have only met Peter – she wanted the chance to know him. And she felt compelled to give that same opportunity to others facing a similar situation. “This type of thing is a lot more common than people realize,” said Michelle. “A lot of children born during and after the Vietnam War are missing parts of their family, and we want to help reconnect families.” Now that she realized how prominent this issue was for so many people across the world, Michelle decided to create Warbabies.org, a website dedicated to helping Amerasians find members of their family. She worked to create a specific focus for War Babies – making connections Continued on page 19

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