NewsFaces of Fort Cavazos


Faces of Fort Cavazos: SGT Makenna Johnsonfenech spends her spare time recruiting bone marrow donors

Posted: 6:03 PM, Jan 24, 2024
Updated: 2024-01-24 19:03:48-05

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — There is more a soldier can do to serve beyond their normal duties — take Sergeant Makenna Johnsonfenech for example.

She's serving in a Military Intelligence role with the 1st Cavalry Division on Fort Cavazos, and taking on a little-known medical mission in her spare time.

Her story begins in sunny Varona, California.

”You know, grew up with the typical loving mom, stepmom, stepdad, and dad,” Sgt. Johnsonfenech said.

“They worked very cohesively in raising us as well as my grandparents, had a significant influence on my life.”

After joining the Army to pay for college and prove she could make it through basic training, she began serving as an engineer.

She soon found the path of Military Intel was the one she really wanted to take.

”It just took a heavy toll on the joints, and I didn’t like it so much,” Sgt. Johnsonfenech said.

“For Intel, I've always felt a draw and I decided to give a try and I love it.”

She serves her country like a community so it’s no surprise she goes beyond the uniform to give back.

”I’m part of Operation Ring The Bell — we are a grass roots group of soldiers who’s dedicated to raising awareness for the DOD’s program, Solute To Life," Sgt. Johnsonfenech said.

"Solute To Life has been around since 1991 and most of the Army doesn’t know it exists.”

The mission is to get as many soldiers to sign up to be a bone marrow donor as possible.

Solute To Life relies on volunteers, but she and Operation Ring The Bell, are working to change that.

”Right now, we are working with senior Army leadership, including Chief of Staff of the Army and Sergeant Major of the Army, to establish programs across the Army, so it is permanent and has a sustainability to keep going once we all leave,” Sgt. Johnsonfenech said.

For her, it’s shocking that more soldiers don’t know about Solute To Life and the need for more bone marrow donors — especially when donating can save a life and recovery time is so short.

”We had a volunteer who was part of our group who had actually donated himself," Sgt. Johnsonfenech said.

"He was in an airborne unit, and he was able to do a jump the next week — it's just that easy.”

She says her goal is to get at least 30 percent of soldiers at Fort Cavazos to sign up as bone marrow donors.

It’s not a sprint, but a marathon, and she plans to keep running.