Father, daughter enjoy first Thanksgiving dinner together in 23 years

Published: Nov. 25, 2016 at 3:24 AM EST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 4:11 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Thanksgiving was extra special this year for a family in Lexington County.

Earlier this year we brought you the story of an army veteran who reconnected with his daughter after spending 23 years apart. On Thursday, the family had a long overdue turkey dinner together.

The reunion was made possible by social media. Ronald Johnson first told WIS back in January that it was Facebook that gave him a reconnection that he, at times, never thought he would get to see.

For many years all Johnson had to remind him of his daughter Kelly was a few photos. The Army vet said he was serving on deployment back in 1992 when his wife at the time took his two children to Germany and broke off all contact.

"Man, it's unbearable. I'm tellin' ya it's hard," Johnson said.

For year after year, Ron said he tried to locate his children with no success.

Then, just this past year, he got a message from Kelly through Facebook and it turns out she was looking for him, too. The two Skyped and then got to see each other face to face just months later.

"You get a request from your daughter, and immediately we're making phone calls," Johnson said.

Each passing day since they were reunited earlier this year has brought something new for the Johnsons. With Ron's help, Kelly moved to the U.S. with her husband and son. They settled just a short distance away from her father. She now holds a job while her husband Chris attends school.

For Ron, it's been a world of fun bonding and creating new memories with his grandson Shawn.

"He's kind of funny sometimes," Shawn said. "He's very nice too and he's kind of the best grandpa in the world."

"I'm happy," Kelly said. "I'm really happy."

On Thursday, the two told WIS that this Thanksgiving, just being together, is still at times surreal

"I always missed my Dad. I always missed a big family," Kelly said through tears. "I missed it."

"It's still hard to believe. It really is hard to believe. That something so fantastic can happen and I'm about to cry," Ronald said as both he and Kelly chuckled. "This is what we asked for. This is what we want."

In addition to Kelly, Ron also has a son, Ron Jr., who has been living in Germany. The army vet said he has also made contact with him over this past year. He says they now talk often and are also looking at ways to get together in the months ahead.

Kelly and her son, meanwhile, both have full citizenship. Her husband is already on his way to becoming one as well.

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