Army couple stationed in separate Afghan cities reunites in Riverhead

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Army couple Jonathan and Cathrine Schmanski will be reunited for 15 days in Riverhead. The couple are station in Afghanistan, but in separate cities.

A husband and wife coming home to each other after getting off work? It happens all the time.

But for Jonathan and Cathrine Schmanski of Riverhead, it’s a little different. Jonathan, 24, is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and 23-year-old Cathrine is a specialist in the Army. Both have been stationed in Afghanistan, but not in the same unit.

“They’re three and a half hours apart by airplane,” said Elizabeth Schmanski, Jonathan’s mother. “He’s in Bagram Airfield, in the north part of the country, and she’s in Kandahar, in the south, in the mountains.”

But for 15 days this month, they are in Riverhead until they are both deployed again to Afghanistan on March 5.

About 30 friends and family members held a special homecoming celebration for the couple last Thursday night at Diggers.

“We have been apart, on and off now, for two years,” Cathrine said.

“We’ve seen each other three or four times in the two years, just through taking leave and stuff like that,” Jonathan said.
“Four times,” Cathrine said, listing the four.

The two were married last May in Arizona, but not all of their relatives were able to attend the ceremony, Jonathan said. He’s from Riverhead, a 2004 graduate of McGann-Mercy High School and she’s from Connecticut.

For Cathrine, Thursday night was the first time she had met some of her relatives from Jonathan’s extended family.
“It’s like a dream come true having her meet all my family and vice versa,” Jonathan said.  They were married May 28, right before they both deployed to Afghanistan, he said.

He said he surprised her with tickets to see Lady Gaga perform in New York City last week, although he admitted that he fell asleep during the concert. “I blame jet lag,” Jonathan said.

The two met while they were both stationed in Germany and Jonathan recalled that they didn’t get along too well at first.
“Yeah, we hated each other,” Cathrine said.

“We bumped heads a lot,” Jonathan explained.  “But then one night we spent some time together and we realize we had a lot of things in common. But once we started to get along, we’ve been pretty much attached at the hip ever since.”

Cathrine said she joined the Army to serve her country.

“I like the benefits of the Army and the job security,” she said.

“I wanted to get out and see the world for,” Jonathan said.

As for Afghanistan?

“It’s a little rough,” Jonathan said.

“It’s definitely a dangerous country,” Cathrine said.

Jonathan’s mom said she her days are filled with concern when they are away in Afghanistan. Having the two of them home together, she said, was “fantastic.” “I cried,” she said. “I am just so touched.”

The couple got a fitting tribute upon arrival last Sunday:  When they walked off a Cross Sound Ferry in Orient, the local chapter of the Patriot Guard greeted them with six motorcycles and three cars and led a procession into Riverhead.

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