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WWII veteran meets long-lost son at National Infantry Museum

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - It's been a little more than 70 years since 92-year-old Nathan J. Jones served in World War II, but it's still not too late for new surprises. Two weeks ago, Jones was shocked to learn he had a son born in Germany.

"I just about fell over backwards, had to catch myself and pull back up," Jones laughs in front of the National Infantry Museum on Saturday.

Jones served in the Army ECO 2nd Battalion 334th Regiment 84th Infantry back in the 1940s when he met Drude-Maria Irene Peppel. The two had a brief relationship before the war ended and Jones returned to the United States. What he didn't know was 19-year-old Drude was pregnant with his son.

Bernhard Draiscol was born May 23, 1947. He says his mother always told him his father was a German soldier who died in a car crash. He and his mother immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s and she later passed away in 2008.

It wasn't until Draiscol recently received an Ancestry.com DNA kit as a gift that he realized his father was on just the other side of the same continent and had been all this time.

"I wrote a letter to my brothers, his sons, introducing myself and giving them evidence that this gentleman is my dad," Draiscol says while standing next to his new-found father's wheelchair.

Jones says his youngest son Shane brought him the news in the nursing home where he currently lives.

"He says, 'How would you like it if you found out you had a 70-year-old son?' Well I almost did faint, or fall out, or whatever," Jones tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton. "It's developed since then, honey, you wouldn't believe or imagine how this turned out."

After telling his dad, Shane called Ilene Kent at the National Infantry Museum outside Fort Benning where Jones worked on post for 28 years. She says he wanted to set up a meeting between Jones and Draiscol.

"So I asked him why the NIM, why did you call us? Well he said well [my dad] served in the Infantry and he has a paver outside, so he thought this would be a good place to have the reunion," Kent recalls. "Everybody was just so excited that we were going to be participating in this unique event."

Event staff, media personnel, and Kent worked for two weeks organizing the Jones family and Draiscol to arrive Saturday just so in order to keep them separated until the magical moment.

"When Bernhard finally came through the doors and they laid eyes on each other, I just about cried, I think everyone did," Kent says. "I saw Nathan lean back and look at him and say, 'Those eyes, those are Drude's eyes.' Then the tears just started to flow. It was beautiful."

Bernhard says he always knew something didn't quite fit in his mother's story about his father, but adds he doesn't blame her, knowing the difficult time raising a child in Soviet-controlled Germany. Now, all he feels is "a fullness" that goes beyond words.

"When you've wanted something all your life and all of a sudden, you realize it might actually come true, there's just not really words to describe that," he says.

Both men add they will work hard to make up for lost time, despite Draiscol living in New Mexico. Draiscol says he plans to spend as much time as possible with his new found family and guarantees he will be back for the Jones family reunion in July.

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