COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — A woman just found out her grandfather is a war hero thanks to a DNA test.
Last year, Gail Manning asked for an ancestry.com DNA test for Christmas. At the time, she had no idea it would change her life. Gail's mom, Brenda Dugger, got a letter in the mail from a genealogist, who was working on behalf of the U.S. Army, to identify prisoner of war remains.
"When I got them I was like 'Gail look! Gail what did you do?' It was like pow pow pow here's this one, that one, and then we found people we didn't even know existed," Dugger said.
The Army linked their family to Corporal Vernon Ginnings, who happened to be a war hero. Unfortunately, he was one of nearly 80,000 Americans unaccounted for, prisoners of war, or missing in action during World War II. Brenda's family never heard his heroic story, until now.
"He put his life on the line out there in front so that others were able to escape," Manning said.
According to a certificate, during World War II Ginnings helped hold off Japanese forces in the Philippines after Pearl Harbor so General Douglas MacArthur could escape. Recently, the Army presented them with Ginnings' medals which included a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.
"It brought me tears. All of them are special, but you always hear about the Purple Heart, never saw one, when they opened that it's like--- Got me right in the gut. It's just, amazing," Dugger said.
Some of Ginnings' remains are still in the Philippines. His family hopes that one day they can bring him home. Eventually, family members want to bury Gennings at the military cemetery in Nashville next to his son, who was also a veteran.
"I think he's at peace now. I think that there was a reason why all this happened, and he wanted to come home somehow, some way, and the only regret was we didn't do it the year before when my father was still alive, so he could have seen it," Dugger said.