Raymond Behrens served tours as a Navy Seabee in Japan, Iraq and twice in Afghanistan.
Upon enlisting, he gave up his two beagles, Bullet and Trigger, and got them back via an off-chance reunion six years later when he found them online, up for adoption again.
Now, after 22 years, Behrens, 25, has been reconnected with his estranged father in another unlikely reunion.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Behrens said. “I didn’t think all this could happen.”
When Behrens was 14, the man who raised him died. Growing up, Behrens thought that man was his biological father, but upon his death, his mother told him the truth.
She was living with a man named Mike Stone when she became pregnant with Behrens, but Stone moved away after a falling-out with Behrens’ mom. Behrens was 3.
He was curious about his biological dad, and the curiosity only intensified as he grew older.
“I was so curious to know what other family we had,” he said.
He did some searching, but had no luck. Then, on Wednesday, he reached out to a private investigator.
By Thursday afternoon, he was speaking to his father on the phone.
“I was so surprised by that,” he said. “I wasn’t sure it was going to work because I had no information. I didn’t have any information except the name” and where Stone worked in the late 1960s.
Private investigator Phillip Thompson, with Confidential Investigation, who called the case “a real tear-jerker,” told Behrens it could be challenging to find his father.
“I told him, ‘Listen, we probably have a 50/50 shot here,’ ” he said.
The information Behrens had was old, and Mike Stone is a fairly common name – there were 182 in the 60- to 65-year-old age range in Washington. But he narrowed it down by county and found a Mike Stone with an old address that matched Behrens’ mother’s old address in Evans, Wash. He also scored a phone number for the man, who indeed turned out to be Behrens’ long-lost father, now married and living in Wisconsin.
When he first contacted Stone to see if he had interest in reuniting with his son, Thompson said Stone responded “absolutely.”
“I was shocked,” Stone said. “I was stunned, first, because I didn’t know what was going on. I thought maybe it was a prank call until he started explaining everything to me.
“After the reality hit, I don’t know, I’m just excited.”
About 80 percent of the time, parent-child reunification cases have a happy ending, but the rest of the time, not so, Thompson said.
“I had tears streaming down my cheeks during this conversation,” he said in a Facebook post reflecting on the reunion. “This makes all the tough things we do worthwhile.”
Stone, who said he and his son are both hunters, had tried to find his son in the past.
“I tried tracking him down but I couldn’t get nowhere,” he said. “Nobody would give me any info, where they went, what happened, nothing.”
Behrens, a father of two himself, said he was nervous to call Stone at first.
“It wasn’t so bad after we started talking,” he said. “At first, I was like, ‘What’s he going to think? I hope he’s happy.’ As soon as we said hello, it was like a normal conversation.”
Now the family is planning on getting together sometime this summer. Stone will see his son after 22 years.
“I just want to get together as soon as we can,” Stone said. “Me and my wife, we’re all excited. We want to get out there as fast as we can.”