WASHINGTON — When Jim Meadwell started looking for his son, he didn’t think to look in Iraq.

But that’s where he found him, while he was home in Ohio recovering from an injury sustained in Baghdad. The 50-year-old KBR contractor had worked just a short helicopter ride away for months without knowing his estranged son was serving in the Army.

“I had been looking for 19 years, and it was like someone took a baseball bat and hit me across my chest,” he said in an e-mail from Iraq. “It was a pain of relief.”

For his son, Army Sgt. Christopher Presley, the news was just as surprising. He had hoped to meet his biological father before deploying to Iraq with the 82nd Signal Company, but he never imagined his tour would include the reunion.

“I figured I’d have to wait until after my deployment to start my search,” he said.

Presley, now 23, grew up with his mother and step-father, with no contact with Meadwell since early childhood. He didn’t even know the name of his biological father until shortly before his deployment, but felt like he should meet the man someday.

But with only a name and no contact information, and mounting deployment preparations, Presley had no chance to track him down before his 15-month tour began.

Meanwhile, Meadwell had been trying to reunite with his son for years but lost all contact with Chris’ mother. The Ohio resident has two other sons and four daughters, but was bothered by the decision not to stay active in his other son’s life.

In July he was injured in Baghdad, and sent back to the States to rehab. Over the next few months, his wife Joyce suggested they surf some MySpace profiles to see if Chris was active there.

After just a few sites, she found a profile with a picture “that looked like a younger Jimmy Meadwell.” They sent a message to him explaining the situation and asking if Chris was the Chris they were looking for.

“I got his message one day after a 12-hour shift; I was in disbelief when I read it,” Presley said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Not now, not here.’ ”

The two men quickly began an e-mail correspondence, filling in the lost years. When he was healthy enough to return to Iraq in late August, KBR officials arranged trip for Meadwell to nearby Camp Delta, so he could see his son face to face.

“It was a pretty cool moment, having everyone that got off the plane watching us unite and taking pictures,” Presley said. “They witnessed something that only happens in movies.”

Presley returned to Ohio just a few days later, his deployment finished. The two men have made plans to meet again around Christmas, this time outside a combat zone.

“We’ll be able to catch up in a normal place,” Presley said. “I go home on block leave for a whole month at the beginning of December, and I have six new siblings to meet, and many nieces and nephews.”

Meadwell is still working in Baghdad, but is looking forward to the visit during the holidays.

“Our family cannot wait to meet him personally in December,” he said. “The whole time we could not find one another, Christopher only lived less then two hours away from me. I think we will never lose touch again.”

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