Imagine the toughest guy you know.
The type of man who hunts and fishes better than everyone else. Who would rather eat beef stew than soup, rather spit tobacco juice than sunflower seeds, rather ride a bull than a horse.
The type of man who, if his compass breaks, knows how to find due north using a needle, a leaf and some water.
Take the man you have just imagined and multiply his manliness by 10.
That was Sgt. Joshua Robinson, says Lance Corp. Gavin Bristol.
“He makes Bear Grylls look like a Girl Scout,” Bristol said Friday morning, standing at a lectern before approximately 150 of Robinson's friends, relatives and fellow Marines gathered at Omaha's Memorial Park.
Some family members have driven here from south-central Nebraska, where Robinson grew up on a farm near Nelson. They remember him as a former standout wrestler, a quiet man, a loving husband and father.
Some of the Marines have hopped a flight here from Camp Pendleton, Calif. They remember him for different reasons: his skill as a sniper; his calm leadership in the middle of Taliban ambushes; the way he was always there for them, a reassuring presence in Afghanistan's notoriously dangerous Helmand province, until the day he wasn't.
They gather here to watch a Marine officer present Rhonda Robinson with a Bronze Star her husband earned for his courage and bravery during an hourlong firefight on June 10, 2011.
They gather here because nearly two months after that firefight, Sgt. Joshua Robinson took two bullets in the left side of his chest during another firefight. He died on Aug. 7, at the age of 29.
The Bronze Star is the Marine Corps' fourth-highest combat award, Capt. Rodney Malone says during the ceremony.
“We're here to honor Josh today. He's the type of person we hope our kids will be.”
The dozen or so Marines who made the trip from Camp Pendleton — almost half the platoon flew halfway across the country — didn't know Josh, not by that name.
They called him Robby. They called him “Man Country” a nickname hung on Robinson when the platoon spent hours daydreaming a fictional place, also called Man Country and populated with Joshua Robinsons.
Man Country is a place where people hunt and kill their own food. Where they eat meat and potatoes and skip the vegetables, like Robinson did.
Man Country is a place where compasses aren't necessary — Robinson once taught Bristol how to tell north with the aforementioned needle and leaf.
Man Country is a place where computers are worthless.
Once, Bristol was typing a report when Robinson walked in.
“Are you done playing with your machine box yet?” he said, sending a stream of tobacco in the general direction of Bristol's feet.
It's easy to figure out who they named the mayor of Man Country.
“I was scared of him at first,” Bristol said after the ceremony. “But he knew so much about the wilderness, about survival. ... He never stopped teaching me.”
To Rhonda Robinson, Josh Robinson wasn't a mythical figure. He was simply a good husband and father of two.
He had deployed to Iraq twice before he shipped to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011.
She says she worried constantly.
“But Josh also told me, ‘These guys have my back. They have my back.' ”
And the Marines in Josh's platoon, a unit in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, still have Josh's back, Rhonda Robinson thinks.
They have his back because they are willing to fly across the country and stand in uniform on a sweltering June morning to watch a half-hour Bronze Star ceremony.
They used to walk with Sgt. Robinson through canals — chest deep in water — so they could avoid the improvised explosive devices that insurgents have littered across the roads and poppy fields.
Now, as the ceremony ends, they make plans to take Rhonda Robinson to lunch.
There she will tell them stories about Sgt. Joshua Robinson, a farm boy from near Nelson.
They will tell her stories about Man Country.
“They were his family, too,” Rhonda Robinson says, pointing to the Marines. “Now they are part of my family, too.”