Friday, June 04, 2010

Army 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, 24, of Sag Harbor, N.Y.

1st Lt Theinert was a New York Army National Guardsman assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.; died June 4, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device during a dismounted patrol.

Army First Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert, a 24-year-old from Shelter Island, died in Kandahar, reportedly hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Thursday. His mother, Christine Theinert of Shelter Island, and his father, who reportedly lives in Sag Harbor, received word late Friday night. His remains were flown into Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday.

He was a member of the first squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, and it was his first tour of duty. His regiment had been in the province for about a month, according to an article that appeared on on several Web sites on May 28. "We have no informants right now, we're still working on it," Lieutenant Theinert said in the article. "They'll eventually come around. They don't know you. They don't trust you when you first arrive."

He is the second East End resident to die in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. In April 2008, Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter of Sag Harbor was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. He died a hero in Ramadi, shooting the bomber, who had driven into a checkpoint he was guarding, along with another soldier. Their shots stopped the bomber from getting closer, but the crash caused the explosives to detonate.

Army Staff Sgt. James L. Pettaway Jr., of Baltimore, who grew up in Southampton, died on Oct. 3, 2004. He had been injured in Fallujah, Iraq, on Aug. 27, 2004. Jonathan Keller, an Army National Guardsman from Wading River, died in January 2009, nine months after being shot while leading a raid in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Theinert was one of a dozen men and women from Shelter Island who have served during the war on terror. One of them is his stepfather, Dr. Frank Kestler, a Shelter Island dentist and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. Dr. Kestler served in Iraq in 2008.

The U.S. death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 over the Memorial Day weekend. Casualties are expected to rise this summer.

A 2004 graduate of Shelter Island High School, Lieutenant Theinert was remembered as hardworking and polite. Friends said he always had his eye on a career in the military, and he attended West Point Military Academy in addition to the State University at Albany.

Bonnie Young, whose family was close to his family, remembered him "as a good friend" and someone who was always happy and smiling. "He was true to himself and people were drawn to him because of that," she said. "It's hard to think a bomb took him out, so heartless. He would have fought harder than anyone," she said. "He was someone that most people aspire to be like."

In high school he excelled at cross-country, lacrosse, and basketball, playing with Shelter Island, Pierson High School in Sag Harbor, and the Ross School in East Hampton. According to his Facebook page, he also enjoyed hunting and paintball.

He was the middle child of three boys. His parents were divorced. In addition to his parents, stepfather, and step-siblings, he is survived by his brothers, Billy Theinert of Bethpage and Jimbo Theinert of Shelter Island.

"The thing I will miss the most," Ms. Young said, "is just having the pleasure of being around such a genuinely nice human being who made everyone around him smile and feel good."

Army 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert was killed in action on 6/4/10.

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