Airman’s upbringing of resilience; 29 siblings and counting

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aubree Owens
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

From foster homes to her forever home, Airman 1st Class Makenna Jessica Martinez Greenlee never could have imagined how big of a family she was going to join.

At the age of three, Greenlee was placed in foster care with three of her siblings. After being in a few homes, a couple from Lubbock, Texas showed interest in adopting all four of them, giving them the chance to grow up together.

Lonny and Donna Greenlee, Greenlee’s adoptive parents, had three children of their own. Once those children started to become independent, they soon realized they had room for more children in their home and their hearts. Beginning in 1977 until now, the couple has adopted 18 children, including Greenlee and her three siblings.

“Although I’ve never asked my parents why they chose to adopt me, whenever others ask about why they adopted the four of us siblings, they always tell them, ‘We just saw them, and we couldn’t leave them,’” explained Greenlee.

Alongside her 20 siblings, Greenlee flourished into the woman she is today. Shortly after she was adopted, Greenlee and her new mother sat down while scrolling through names and she chose Makenna to be her first name, and also chose to take the family name of Greenlee. Once Jessica Martinez, the second youngest of four siblings, turned into Jessica Makenna Martinez Greenlee, one of 23 Greenlees.

“We are very proud of Makenna because of how hard she worked to better herself and for being the first of any of our kids to join a service,” said Donna Greenlee.

Growing up with almost two dozen sibling led to her having many role models. One of her older brothers, Kenny Greenlee, inspired her the most, as he had many jobs within his community. He was not only the mayor of Ropesville, Texas, but an active policeman and an emergency medical service provider for the small town.

“I always looked up to him and thought what he did was amazing,” said Greenlee. “Through him, I realized that I wanted to be a part of something more for the place I live, the United States, which brought me to where I am today, serving in the United States Air Force.”

When Greenlee entered her adult years, she was found by her biological father and reunited with him. She then discovered she had more siblings, bringing the count to 26 between the Greenlee and Martinez families.

“I very blessed to be able to see my beautiful daughter carry out her visions and dreams,” said Jessie Martinez, Greenlee’s biological father. “I am grateful that I received a second chance to witness what my daughter has become, and it is an honor to be an Air Force dad.”

A few years passed and Greenlee was able to meet her birth mother, too. After getting acquainted, she met three more siblings from her mother, making the total 29.

“Thinking back on my past, I think of all the challenges I went through and how my childhood is like the military in a way,” said Greenlee. “The Air Force is constantly changing, and, with the resilience I developed through my upbringing, I am able to challenge myself and adapt, making the best of every situation.”

After joining the Air Force on Sept. 3, 2019, Greenlee received orders to her first base, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, where she currently serves as a services journeyman in the 36th Force Support Squadron.

“A1C Greenlee is a superstar Airman and is a shining example of what it means to embody the Air Force’s core values of “Integrity, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all We Do,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, 36th FSS sustainment services flight chief. “She is always the first to step up to a challenge and is passionate and reliable when it comes to volunteering, helping others, and supporting the mission.”

Greenlee has high ambitions for her Air Force career. Recognized by her leadership, she will soon go up for Senior Airman Below the Zone, and, if selected, will be promoted to the next rank six months ahead of schedule. That’s not where her goals end, however. Influenced early in her career, Greenlee hopes to return to boot camp to become a military training instructor in hopes of motivating young Airmen just as she once was.

Although Greenlee’s childhood may not be the most conventional, it crafted her into the resilient woman and Airman she is today. The amount of siblings Greenlee has seems to grow throughout the years, as does her resilience.