Net search links father, daughter

  • Kristi O’Harran / Herald Columnist
  • Monday, August 13, 2001 9:00pm
  • Local News

A soaring eagle in Monika Arnett’s dream was a vision of the future.

Her future is on the upswing since she met her biological father after a 30-year search. For others looking for folks who were in the military overseas, I offer a wonderful Internet search engine that might prompt more reunions.

First we will learn about Arnett, who spent teen years locked inside juvenile facilities. Her mother said she was incorrigible. Three younger siblings treated her like a stranger when they found out Arnett was only a half-sister. Arnett wasn’t told until she was 15 that the stepfather who raised her was not her biological dad.

The lonely, lost, withdrawn teen did part of her time in solitary confinement, not even allowed to finish high school. Home for less than a week when she was eventually released, she was sent to New York to live with a sister. That didn’t work out. Arnett bounced from coast to coast, living the bleak life of the homeless.

Hold on. Things get better. Arnett, 46, raised three wonderful children. Estranged from her mother and her stepfather, she made her own way. Arnett made certain that her youngsters would be raised in a successful atmosphere.

"A child must belong," Arnett said. "I’ve protected them and I’ve taught them the basics of love and life. I’m so proud to say that they are doing well. They belong."

But where did Arnett belong? In Germany, 47 years ago, her mother dated a soldier, but their marriage was denied by Arnett’s grandfather, Ludwig Albert Grambitter, who had no use for an American military man. Two months before Arnett was born, her father was transferred. After the transfer, Arnett’s mother met her eventual stepfather.

The mother, stepfather and toddler came to the United States. When Arnett was 15, her real story began to reveal itself. Her mother gave Arnett her birth certificate that showed no father listed.

Arnett searched off and on for the next 30 years for her biological father.

Here is something beautiful: Her biological father was looking for her.

"As a young child, before I knew the truth, I had dreams of a faceless man sitting on a chair in the sky, calling for me to come to him," Arnett said. "I would always sleepwalk during those dreams. When I was told the truth, my dreams ended. The final dream was where an eagle flew from the sky, lifting me with its talons, and placing me in a land among giant men. It was when I awoke that I knew it was time to find and meet my father."

Arnett looked for Sembach Air Base in Germany, where her biological father was stationed. Through this search, she found GIsearch.com, a free Web site that helps military families and friends find each other.

She sent e-mails to GIs who served in Sembach. She also posted a message asking for anyone who knew her family to please respond. The very next day, her real father, Tom Cochran, saw the ad.

"I was skeptical," Arnett said. "After so long, how could I find him so easily? But it was true. He knew things only my father would know."

For a capper, he had pictures of her mother.

Cochran, who lives in Tennessee, had searched for his daughter since returning stateside in 1955. He had returned to Sembach and tried to find her. He bought computer CDs and combed them for the name he and her mother had agreed on for their baby, Bettina Teo Delinda. He had no idea his daughter was named Monika.

Cochran, chief of logistics at Fort Campbell, "Screaming Eagle Country," didn’t know her mother’s married name. GIsearch.com site was developed by mostly ex-military folks who saw the need.

"GIsearch.com is proud to be a part of such a miracle," said George Baker, operations director of the Web site. "These kinds of stories make all the work worthwhile."

Arnett and Cochran recently fell into each other’s arms at a Nashville airport.

"He said, ‘Angel, I have been looking for you,’" Arnett said of the meeting. "He said, ‘You’ll never know how much this old heart loves you, but I will try to make up for 44 years.’"

Her father told her to wipe her tears. There was no longer a void. Their lives had come full circle. Arnett was greeted by Cochran’s wife of 44 years and three children who welcomed her to their family.

Cochran is coming to Everett soon to meet his grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

"I hope by sharing, my story can be an inspiration to other people," Arnett said. "I knew that somewhere, someone knew something about my father."

An eagle told her so.

Kristi O’Harran’s Column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. If you have an idea for her, call 425-339-3451 or send information to oharran@heraldnet.com.

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