Most parents of children killed in combat never get the chance to visit the place they were lost.
Before Dr. Frank Kestler returned from Afghanistan, his third tour of duty, in November, he was able to travel to the farm field near Arif Kala where his stepson New York Army National Guard 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, a Shelter Island native, suffered a mortal wound in 2010.
"To actually be there, where Joe was killed, was very sobering," Kestler, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, told the New York Army National Guard News. "I knew I was the only member of the family to walk where Joe had walked with his men."
Theinert was killed while leading the 10th Mountain Division on an assault on an enemy position near Arif Kala, just outside Kandahar, when an IED exploded on June 4, 2010.
While Theinert grew up mainly on Shelter Island, his father, James Theinert, lives in Sag Harbor.
Two years after Theinert was killed, Kestler, a dentist with offices in Mattituck and on Shelter Island, took a voluntary deployment to Afghanistan, where he provided dental care at dozens of bases, where he saw severe trauma and even assisted in surgeries, but he said he always wanted to visit the spot where his stepson was killed.
"It had been on my mind for a long time. I felt the need to go there," he told the New York Army National Guard, adding that the area has become extremely secure. "It was due to Joe and his squadron."
Theinert is remembered in various ways on Shelter Island, where he was laid to rest; a section of Route 114 is now named after him, a basketball tournament to raise scholarship funds is held annually, his platoon was honored before they disbanded for good in May 2011 on the island, and the first-ever Shelter Island Spur Ride around the island.
Also, Kestler and his wife Chrys Kestler, Theinert's mother, are , called Strongpoint Theinert.