Joshua and Robin
Years together: Four and a half
They hung out for five days. Then he proposed.
They met in Germany. Robin was visiting her twin sister who'd just had a baby and whose husband was in the same unit as Sgt. Joshua Blanton. Needless to say, they clicked. Robin even extended her trip for three days so she could spend more time with him.
She went back home to San Antonio, Texas, and sought out a student visa, some way for her to get back to Germany and see Sgt. Blanton. The wait for a visa seemed long and daunting. A week, maybe two weeks after she'd come home, they were on the phone. "Let's get married," he said.
Robin describes herself as indecisive. Still, she accepted. "I know this is going to sound kind of crazy, but I was just like, 'Well, what's the worst that could happen? I love him, or I think I love him, and if it doesn't work out it doesn't work out; people get divorced all the time.'
"I wasn't willing to walk away and wonder 'What if?'”
Josh was just going with his gut feeling, and it felt right, he says. "I wasn't pursuing anyone, but yet, she still came along." The news of their engagement was surprising to friends and relatives, but neither of them caught much flack, they say. They flew to Albuquerque where Joshua's mother assembled a wedding on short notice.
But the same Army that was responsible for introducing the Blantons has been a hard master, demanding time and again that they separate for weeks, even months.
Robin joined the Army as a medic and was stationed in Tacoma, Wash., where she waited for her new husband to join her. "His orders didn't catch up with mine for four more months." Finally, Joshua got to Washington, but then his unit was ordered into Iraq. He stayed with his new bride two brief months before leaving for the war-torn country.
"That was the first two years of our marriage. We pretty much spent it apart," says Robin.
They live their lives differently than other people, she acknowledges. "When we are together—that's about half the time we've been married, maybe—we do whatever we want to do." They take trips they can't fully afford, knowing they'd rather have less money when they're apart. "When we're actually together, we just enjoy our time to the fullest."
It was difficult to be away from one another, especially, says Robin, since they didn't really have a foundation before they got hitched. "I've had a hard time trying to explain it to people before," says Joshua. He likens it to getting poked hard in the eye. "Sure, it hurts the first couple times, but then you start getting used to it.
"We've been poked in the eye so many times in the past five years."
Joshua thought he was finished with the Army in 2005, when his requisite four years were up. He bought a house in Albuquerque's North Valley and waited for his wife to finish her service.
Last month, just before Christmas, he went to Washington to pick Robin up and bring her to their new home. On a Saturday morning, Joshua's mom called. Federal Express had dropped off a package from the Department of Defense. She asked Joshua if he wanted her to open it.
"My mom actually had to read me my orders," he says. Joshua was to report for duty again on Jan. 14, returning to Afghanistan for no longer than 545 days—another year and a half.
He waited until after that evening's Winter Ball to break the news to Robin. They went "blah," he says, "numb," for days. He asked for a delay and got it. He'll head out for retraining at the end of March.
Though they've spent most of their marriage apart, this time, it's a little harder to swallow, Robin says. "All the other times, not that we weren't disappointed, but we kind of knew that was in our active time in the Army." Add to that a growing discontent on both their parts about the U.S. military action overseas. "I'm going to chase 'roaming death squads'” Joshua laughs, quoting President Bush's State of the Union address. The couple doesn't know yet whether he will be attached to a unit that will see combat.
"It was unbelievable," Joshua says. "I think my life's beginning. I was in Washington to pick up my wife, to bring her back to Albuquerque, to start our lives together. And then I get told I have to go to war."