BILLINGS — Emma Martinsen didn't always know she wanted to attend the United States Naval Academy, but she was always a high achiever growing up.
So, it made sense when she was a junior at Billings Senior High School and decided to pursue serving in the military after a USNA Midshipman came to speak to one of her classes.
“I’ve always liked and enjoyed the idea of serving,” Emma, now a junior at the USNA, said on Sunday. “I’m in one of the newer majors, Foreign Area Studies, and then I’m also minoring in Chinese.”
Her father, Sam, remembers the day she came to him telling him she wanted to attend the USNA.
“I remember I was sitting right here (on the couch) when she was a junior in high school, and she was standing right over here, and she says, 'Papa, I think I’m going to try to get into the U.S. Naval Academy.' And literally, it brought tears to my eyes,” Sam said.
He said he was thrilled by Emma's decision to serve, as he served in the Marine Corps for two years and never thought his daughters would follow in his footsteps.
“She’s always been a go-getter, just from the youngest age,” he said.
Emma's mother, Georgie, agreed with Sam's description of Emma, adding that another quality her daughter has is "grit."
Emma is one of three Billings residents who are currently Midshipmen at USNA. She is in the Glee Club at the academy and is a hardworking and dedicated young woman, whose journey to Montana was a long one.
“I was adopted from China in August of 2002 when I was about 9 months old,” Emma said.
Both Emma and her older sister were adopted from China at different times.
“We thought that it would be a good thing for Abby (Emma's sister) to have a sister who understood her story. When we were in China, we got her on video (saying), ‘I’m a big sister now.’ So they’ve always gotten along really well,” Georgie said.
Emma and Abby had a childhood full of travel. Sam is a retired National Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger, so while the girls were growing up they moved from state to state and even spent some time living overseas.
For the first time in years, Emma was able to come home for Thanksgiving to spend time with her family and friends. The Martinsens will be traveling to New Mexico to visit Abby early next week after Emma speaks with high school students in Billings about the USNA.
“It provides a really great experience,” Emma said.