Last Sunday would have been First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert’s 35th birthday. He gave his life to save others during his tour of duty in Afghanistan where he died on June 4, 2010, the victim of an improvised explosive device.
What Joey’s family did with their grief was to embrace his platoon members, which gave birth to the contribution of land in New Mexico for their use that had been a retreat for his mother and stepfather, Chrys and Francis Kestler.
Visiting with Joey’s platoon members “shaped a lot our ideas about how important it is for veterans to have time to spend with each other in a relaxed environment,” Ms. Kestler said. She and her husband knew the space would be perfect for veterans, their families and Gold Star families.
It has become the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch that, despite not having a bunkhouse on the land yet, has welcomed many troops for a respite, often led by Joey’s brother Jimbo Theinert and sometimes Dr. Kestler.
Now, members of the board have voted to match contributions up to $5,000 with an overall goal of raising $50,000 this year that would provide operating costs for the bunkhouse to be built. The bunkhouse is expected to rise on the property sometime this fall, according to Chrys Kestler.
Businesses on Shelter Island and the North Fork have helped raise money while residents have contributed generously through the years to keep the effort alive. But the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch has lagged behind a bit in fundraising this past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Kestler said.
“We definitely wouldn’t be standing” were it not for the contributions received so far, she said, describing the last many months as a “tough time.”
New Mexico has been hard hit by COVID, slowing activities dramatically.
The hope is to resume fundraising events such as a South Ferry cruise, perhaps by summer or autumn. But that could only happen if COVID is under control to allow such an activity. The group has already had to cancel its golf tournament fundraiser this year.
“We have a rule in our family that anything the Theinert-Kestler family needs, the answer is yes,” said South Ferry president Cliff Clark.
“While we are unable to celebrate with him in person, we are proud of the work we’ve accomplished in his honor,” according to a letter from Jimbo Theinert who is president of Strongpoint Theinert Ranch.
In the interim, on Joey’s birthday, the group launched a major fundraising campaign to celebrate.
Jimbo quotes author George Eliot as saying, “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”
That Joey is not only remembered but celebrated with his memory serving as the inspiration of still caring for troops and their families provides “so many reminders of Joe in our lives and we know that he is not forgotten,” Jimbo wrote.
The group hopes to make a serious dent in that $50,000 goal reaching out to the community to seek pledges, $5,000 of which would be matched by the money the board has allocated.
“As we move through another year without Joe physically being in our lives, please consider donating for two tremendous reasons: to remember Joey and ensure that the important work we are doing at the Ranch can continue in 2021 with completion of the bunkhouse,” Jimbo said in his letter.
There have been some major donors and they are certainly appreciated, Ms. Kestler said. But people don’t always realize that even if their pockets aren’t deep, small contributions do add up, she said. To contribute to the fundraising effort, visit the Strongpoint Theinert website at www.strongpointtheinert.org.