(ABC NEWS)- The sun was setting on a summer evening in September 1986 when two teenagers discovered a newborn baby boy in a cardboard box.
He was in a box next to a Salvation Army bin in Anchorage, Alaska, and the teens picked him up, took him home and the authorities were called.
Police launched an investigation and learned from bystanders that a pregnant woman had been seen standing near the area where the baby was found.
“[The bystanders] hadn’t given it much thought, but when they had gotten home, they started watching the news, and heard that a baby had been abandoned there,” said Det. David Koch, one the Anchorage Police officers who responded to the scene.
The baby was placed in foster care for a few months and then adopted into a loving home in Idaho, where he grew up alongside two sisters.
Today, 31-year-old Benjamin Tveidt is a sergeant in the Idaho Army National Guard. An experienced gunner, he served two tours in Iraq.
Tveidt said he was 11 years old when his father told him he was adopted.
“I didn’t believe him at first,” Tveidt said. “I was devastated.”
Then he learned about how he had a “foundling,” abandoned as a baby in a cardboard box.
“[My parents] brought the newspaper clippings out that they had preserved … They showed me my bracelets from the hospital,” he said. “I was spinning. I mean I was like, ‘What, this is all a joke, right?’”
The shocking news launched Tveidt on a new mission to solve the mystery of his birth and learn the identity of his biological parents, where he came from and why he was left.
“This was the biggest question in my life,” he said. “I would look up at the stars some nights and wonder if my mom or dad or if my brothers or sisters or my grandparents were looking at the stars that night.”
Tveidt connected with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, who entered samples of his DNA into four national databases hoping to find a match for his biological mother. Through that process, possible hits on distant relatives cropped up.
But then Moore got a direct hit on someone they hadn’t even been looking for. She had found Tveidt’s biological father, who, as it turned out, had also served in the military.
“It’s a man named Richard Blanchfield, who’s a pretty incredible guy,” Moore told him. “He’s not just any Vietnam vet, he’s a highly decorated Vietnam vet.”
Moore was able to uncover that Blanchfield had been 47 years old when Tveidt was born and not only was he was still alive, but he also he lived in California, 20 minutes away from where Moore lives.
“I thought I got struck by lightning when she told me,” Tveidt said. “To find a relative that close, it blew my mind. I thought I landed on the moon and discovered aliens.”
For Tveidt, it felt like he had been abandoned and rejected all over again.
When biological parents are contacted by a child they had left behind long ago, Moore said, it can be like “opening Pandora’s box.”
“They have to face a lot of deeply buried emotions … They have carried a lot of buried emotions,” she said. “A lot of shame, of guilt and fear.”
But he still had his biological father. Later, Tveidt reached back out to Blanchfield in Idaho. Over the course of their conversation, Tveidt told him what had happened and said if he had to go back and do it all over again, he wouldn’t have changed anything about his life.
“I don’t want to be a different person,” Tveidt said.
“You are a great person, you have a bigger family now,” Blanchfield told him. “The world had given me so much and I was blind to that for 30 years.”
As their conversation started to wind down, Tveidt and Blanchfield said their goodbyes.
“Alright son, I love you,” Blanchfield said.
“I love you too,” Tveidt replied.