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44-year-old meets his father for the first time

Tracked down his dad to California through websites like ancestry.com

SAN FRANCISCO: Forty-four-year-old Rod Whitaker spent nearly all of his life believing he was an only child without a father. Over the same time period, his father never even knew of Rod’s existence, having been sent to fight in the Vietnam War without knowing that Rod’s mother was pregnant with their child.

But last Wednesday, Whitaker landed at San Francisco International Airport, where he reunited not only with his father but with five brothers he had never met.

And when Whitaker celebrated his 45th birthday last Friday, he did so with hundreds of relatives at a Fourth of July family reunion picnic.

“To go from my mom’s only child to, hopefully, getting in fights about getting hugs on me ...,” Whitaker said in an interview contemplating how much his life had changed in one day.

Whitaker said he searched through websites like ancestry.com before eventually tracking down his biological father in California. His dad is a Vietnam War veteran who served three tours of duty.

“I think of all the close calls that I had,” Whitaker’s father, who was not identified, said while standing next to his middle-aged son. “I made it here to see my son. I’ll probably believe it tomorrow.”

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