Military newlyweds reunite at Long Island airport

Young newlyweds who had been separated for months while they both served in the Army in Afghanistan were reunited yesterday at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Sgt. Cathrine Schmanski, 25, originally from Killingly, Conn., was greeted by her husband, Staff Sgt. Johnathan Schmanski, 25, of Riverhead, in an emotional meeting in the airport’s packed welcome area.

“There’s no way to describe how it feels to be back with my husband,” she said. “There’s nothing I want more.”

On hand to witness the reunion and present the couple with citations were several Long Island veterans, including Islip Town Councilman Gene Parrington. Himself a Vietnam veteran, Parrington started a program more than two years ago called Hometown Heroes to welcome veterans returning home through MacArthur Airport.

“I think it’s a great love story,” Parrington said as he waited for the couple outside the airport’s main terminal. “It’s a love story between them and their country.”

The couple married in May.

In the two years they’ve been together, they’ve carefully had to plan matching trips home to see one another. Even then, the meetings were for just a few weeks at a time.

Johnathan Schmanski, who returned to the United States from Afghanistan recently, drove from Fort Hood, Texas, to greet his wife. He presented her with pink and white flowers at the gate.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for the past two years,” he said.

Johnathan Schmanski, a 2004 graduate of McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead, met his wife while they were stationed in Vilseck, Germany. He asked her to marry him as they rode in a horse-drawn carriage while sightseeing in San Antonio.

The two were married May 28 in Arizona, while Cathrine Schmanski was on leave before deploying to Afghanistan.

Johnathan Schmanski served in Bagram Air Field, in the north part of Afghanistan. Cathrine Schmanski served in Kandahar, in the south.

Last December, she took a three-hour flight north to her husband and spent five days with him. They also both re-enlisted during her visit, signing up to serve until 2013.

Both say they believe serving the Army — even though separated from each other — is their calling.

“We’re going to live in America,” Cathrine Schmanski said. “We have to make sure to keep it the way it is.”

Her husband agrees. “We need to finish our job with the military, whether that’s two years or 20.”

John Schmanski’s mother, Elizabeth Schmanski of Riverhead, said having her son and now daughter-in-law serving abroad felt like having two children in harm’s way. “I’m grateful to God that she’s home,” she said.