Troops who served with fallen East End soldier to visit his hometown

05/19/2011 10:08 AM |

FILE PHOTO| Lt. Joseph Theinert

The military troops who served in Afghanistan with Lt. Joseph Theinert are expected to arrive on Shelter Island today to pay a visit to the hometown where the man who saved their lives grew up.

Lt. Theinert was killed in combat on June 4, 2010 and brought home to Shelter Island to be buried. Joe was the son and stepson of Chrystyna and Frank Kestler of Mattituck and Shelter Island, and of James and Cathy Theinert of Sag Harbor.

His mom, Chrystyna Kestler, initially expected about 25 soldiers and officers and some of their family members to attend a three-day “Welcome Home” celebration. But as of Tuesday, that number was in the 40s “and still growing,” she said.

The Times/Review team will be on Shelter Island today document the troops’ arrival, and you can follow along on the Reporter’s twitter feed.

Lt. Theinert was leading his platoon of 20 men on a mission in Kandahar Province, when they encountered hostile fire and were forced toward an area mined with IEDs (improvised explosive devices). He disabled one IED and approached a second one when the trigger mechanism sounded. He warned the others to get back. Because of his warning, none of the men were injured when the device exploded. But he died and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for his heroic actions.

Ms. Kestler said that the men whose lives he saved, Banshee Troop, 1st Squadron, 71st Calvary Battalion of the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, will be here for four days of reunion, remembering and healing. They will travel together, leaving Fort Drum in upstate New York at 5 a.m. on Thursday. It’s about an eight-hour, 400-mile trip and the group will be accompanied the entire way by law enforcement and motorcycle contingents, the Patriot Guard Riders and the Red Knights.

American Legion member Matt Rohde said he expected their arrival at South Ferry between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Ms. Kestler has hopes that in addition to the Fire Department with its ladder truck and an American Legion Color Guard, local residents will gather at South Ferry at midday to welcome the men home from Afghanistan and to Shelter Island.

The front of Dr. Kestler’s dentist office on Shelter Island has been festooned with patriotic bunting, flags and large “welcome home” banners in honor of Banshee Troop. Flags have been mounted on telephone poles along Ferry Road, provided by Shelter Island Hardware, funded by the American Legion and installed by the Highway Department.

Earlier this month Ms. Kestler explained that as a Gold Star Mother, her mission is to support vets. “I want these guys to get just as much support as Joe,” she said, “I don’t want any vet forgotten.”