When the door to an unfamiliar home in Southern California finally opened, Benjamin Tveidt was greeted by eyes that were undeniably like his.
Tveidt had waited 30 years to see that door — and to see the man standing behind it, who was now in his 70s.
Tveidt, 31, made headlines in Boise and around the country in April 2016 when the Idaho Statesman, in partnership with the Alaska Dispatch News (now the Anchorage Daily News), told his unorthodox story.
Tveidt was raised by a military family in Mountain Home and Bruneau, and he learned he was adopted on his 11th birthday, when he and his father were on their way to see “Mortal Kombat.”
Tveidt learned that he was left in a box, wrapped in nothing but a blanket, hours after he was born on Sept. 4, 1986, in Anchorage, Alaska. A pair of teenagers found him abandoned just outside a Salvation Army. He was fostered for a few months before eventually being taken in by Don and Cheryl Tveidt, who lived near Anchorage. When he was 4, Tveidt and his family moved to Mountain Home, where his parents were stationed at the Air Force base.
He lived a fairly normal life until that 11th birthday, but from that moment on, Tveidt made it his mission to find his biological parents.
After the Statesman ran his story two years ago, Tveidt was contacted by ABC’s “20/20,” which helped him locate his parents. The show will air at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC.
The show’s producers were there when his biological father opened the door in Oceanside, California.
“The eyes were a dead giveaway,” said Tveidt, who serves in the Idaho Army National Guard and is stationed at Gowen Field. “I still think about that moment when he opened the door for the first time and I saw his eyes. It was like looking into the mirror, but 40 years in the future.”
The search begins
When Tveidt learned of his adoption, he didn’t believe it. After leaving “Mortal Kombat,” he and his father talked more about his adoption. When he came home and spoke with his mother, Tveidt said he came to terms with the news.
Tveidt’s parents showed him the newspaper clippings from Anchorage about his abandonment. They showed him his hospital bracelet from that September night. It reads “Baby Boy Doe.”
Naturally, Tveidt had questions his adopted parents could not answer. Who were his biological parents, and why had he been abandoned, basically left to die?
Tveidt joined the Army at 18 and served in Iraq as a gunner. He returned home in December 2011 and began life in Boise soon after.
But it was an internet search while he was serving in 2010 that inspired him to construct his family tree.
Tveidt said he saw an advertisement for a DNA kit while surfing the web. Unfortunately, it cost upwards of $1,000. The price eventually went down, and Tveidt said he bought a kit for $99 in 2013.
He found distant cousins from the first test, took another and was put in touch with another pair of distant cousins. Their hobby? None other than genealogy, Tveidt said.
The recently discovered distant cousins suggested that he speak with local newspapers to tell his story. Tveidt, an admittedly private man, was initially hesitant.
But then he thought better of it.
“What do I have to lose?” he said. “As long as I jump headfirst into a situation and can give it all I got, even if I lose, I tried.”
‘20/20’ offers help
CeCe Moore is a well-known investigative genetic genealogist in Southern California who has worked for the the famed PBS show “Finding Your Roots.”
After Tveidt’s story ran, media organizations from across the nation reached out. One of those organizations was ABC’s “20/20,” the popular journalism program. Moore, an expert in genetic genealogy education, has worked with the show multiple times.
Tveidt’s family tree was her latest project.
“When I am working on a search like Ben’s, my greatest hope is that at least one of the newly found close family members will welcome the searcher with open arms,” Moore told the Statesman.
Moore’s process was swift. Given her work and relationships in the field, Moore said she contacted the four major DNA testing organizations: AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritageDNA and Family Tree DNA.
The key service wound up being AncestryDNA. While matches can be hit or miss with each database, Moore found a direct hit with AncestryDNA. And it wasn’t just a match with any family member: it was with his father, a man named Richard Blanchfield, who lived just 20 minutes away from Moore’s office in Oceanside, California.
As fate would have it, Blanchfield’s sons had created an AncestryDNA page for their father. The reason? Blanchfield, now 78, was also adopted. He was looking for family members of his own.
“It’s like being struck by lightning and being attacked by a shark all at the same time,” Tveidt said with a laugh. “It blew my mind. I was speechless.”
Tveidt said that because they were unsure of how Blanchfield would take the news, Moore contacted the two sons who had created his AncestryDNA page. A meeting between all parties was set up for Sept. 7, 2016, just days after Tveidt’s 30th birthday. Moore and “20/20” made the trek for the reunion, too.
“I had a lot of questions,” Tveidt said. “When we finally met, I landed on the moon.”
‘Two peas in a pod’
When Richard Blanchfield opened the door to his Oceanside home, Tveidt noticed a few things other than dark brown eyes that resonated with him. Directly behind Blanchfield, Tveidt saw a collection of books and “artifacts,” little collectible items strewn about the shelves. The first thing Tveidt sees when he opens the door to his own apartment is a massive bookshelf, filled with books and adorned with football helmets, figurines and Star Trek models.
Video courtesy of “20/20” and ABC
“His house is full of books, little artifacts, knickknacks,” Tveidt said. “I’m not so weird after all having my (own) collection, museum.”
The two hit it off immediately. Moore observed the connection.
“I have very rarely met any of the people involved in-person,” Moore said. “They were two peas in a pod. In any circumstances, meeting Richard would be an honor. He is such a fascinating person with almost unending incredible stories to tell.”
In addition to finding out his biological father was adopted, Tveidt learned that Blanchfield served in Vietnam. Coming from an adoptive family with a military background, Tveidt was proud that his biological father served, too.
Tveidt discovered that when his father was working for the government in Anchorage, he met a woman at a bar. The two spent the night together. Blanchfield had work the next morning, Tveidt said, and he never heard from the woman again.
While working on finding the identity of Tveidt’s father, Moore also narrowed down his mother’s identity by using the DNA of his relatives. She determined it was one of two sisters, though both women were adamant they weren’t Tveidt’s mother and had nothing to do with his abandonment. The older of the sisters had parting words on a call.
“(You) need to go back to where you came from and love your family that raised (you),” the woman told Tveidt. Then she hung up the phone.
‘The good aspects’
Blanchfield did not know that the woman was pregnant. He had no idea he was the father of a child left outside a Salvation Army in a box.
“I don’t remember the lady’s name, honest to God I don’t,” Blanchfield said during the meeting with “20/20.” “Before she left, I remember this distinctly … I had three statues, I still have two of them. They’re from China and … it was a Chinese goddess statue, and I gave it to her and I said, ‘This will bring you good luck.’”
Since their initial meeting, Tveidt said he has visited Oceanside again. He and his father now write letters and talk on the phone. They share stories of their time serving; they are still piecing together the past 31 years.
“It’s really just catching up on all the good aspects of our lives, and the happy times we had that we weren’t able to share,” Tveidt said.
In one of their recent phone calls, the two discussed the upcoming TV show. Neither plans to watch it, Tveidt said.
“I lived it once,” Tveidt said. “I didn’t want to live it again.”
He is, however, thankful to ABC, Moore and the countless others who helped him find his father. His relationship with his adopted family has not changed, Tveidt said. They have been reserved but supportive.
Now, he’s just gained an extra family.
“The universe does strange things sometimes,” Tveidt said. “And that fact that me and my dad were both adopted, we’re both veterans ... there’s so many similarities that it blows my mind every time I think about it.”