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Veteran Army Family Reunited after 39 Years: And it Feels so Good!

Mrs. Tamara Thomas and her father, retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Trejo Sr.
Mrs. Tamara Thomas and her father, Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Trejo Sr. reuniting.

Families reuniting can be a life changing event, and one such story has resulted in a happy and long-awaited reunification for a family of Veterans.

I am Mrs. Tamara Thomas, a Capt. with 16 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve, and I am currently a social worker with the North Florida / South Georgia Veterans Health System. I never had the opportunity to know my father, retired Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Trejo Sr., and my mother, U.S. Army SGT Natalie Sanders, passed away when I was just three years old.

I know my parents were stationed together in Germany sometime between 1981-1983 and I was born shortly thereafter. After my mother passed away, I was not afforded the opportunity to know my father. Despite this, I kept a picture of him on my dresser hoping that he would find me someday but as I grew older, graduated from high school, and then college, I assumed it would never happen.

Some of my most memorable times working at the VA hospital have been helping Veteran families reunite. This helped me to understand the circumstances of why some Veteran families are apart and it did not always mean that the estranged parent was a bad person.

On May 6, 2023, my older sister, LaTangie Miller, texted me information stating, “I think I’ve found your dad, road trip?” At the time, I did not want to reopen a box that I had worked so hard to safely tuck away in my heart. But, without my consent, the box began to crack open, and several emotions seeped out almost at once.

My sister told me, “Tamara, everyone deserves to know their family and I just think this is overdue.” Hesitantly, I gave myself that weekend to complete my online search with the information provided. It wasn’t long before I found possible relatives on Facebook and began looking at their pictures. I remember zooming in on one image and my heart skipped a beat. It was his eyes I recognized, and I knew it was my father.  

I reached out to this relative and found out that she is my youngest sister. She was very welcoming and agreed it was time. My father and I Facetimed and stared at each other in awe. We were finally able to ask each other questions about things we have wondered about most of our lives. I was able to hear the story of how my parents met in the 369th Signal Unit at a small base named Fort Karlsruhe in Germany. I learned so much in just one conversation. With tears in his eyes, he apologized for the loss of my mother and the lack of his presence stating, “Tamara, I’m not the same person that I was in my twenties.” My father seemed genuine and that was what I needed the most.

The VA Whole Health approach focuses on what is most important to the Veteran and for me it has always been family. I have tried my best to lead a positive and fulfilling life but there is one void that neither myself, my spouse, nor my children could ever fill.

So, this year, I took another step to support my whole health journey and I met my father in person. We now talk weekly and are planning future family visits. I am learning about our culture and traditions and am still in shock that we reunited. The healing process of reunification has been the most effective way to reconcile with the past.

I hope my story encourages other Veterans and children of servicemembers to give grace and take the first steps to reach out to each other if that is what you truly want to do. I thought I ended a chapter in my life years ago, but it turns out I just had an amazing bookmark.


Author: Tamara Thomas, Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing Supervisor

Mrs. Thomas is a Capt. in the United States Army Reserves with 16 years of service and is preparing for mobilization to Kuwait in her role as a Social Worker.