A while ago, Chrystyna Kestler had planned to do some work at her son’s grave site on Shelter Island — re-sod and add some plantings — on Monday.
Her son, , a 24-year-old Shelter Island native, was the first serviceman from the island to be killed in combat since the Vietnam War when he died last June 4 while on foot patrol in Afghanistan. And Monday was the day the much of the world learned that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. armed forces during an attack on Sunday.
“It was my Joey message for the day — I get them from him,” Kestler said during a phone interview on her way from Shelter Island to Mattituck on Monday. “Mission accomplished, justice has been served.”
Keslter said that she first heard the news on Sunday night from her youngest son Nicholas, who called his mother from school in Pennsylvania. She said that knowing that the leader of al Qaeda and the symbol of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center was dead was a bittersweet relief.
“Of course, it’s not going to bring Joey back,” she said. “But it is a huge blow to a terrorist organization. We are at war, and with was there are casualties and my son was one of them. But he chose to protect our rights and our freedom. That’s what he believed in.”
Family and friends of Lt. Theinert gathered around Cartwright Road Circle on Route 114 on Shelter Island this past October to witness a 1.4-mile section of the highway become renamed in her son’s name.
Kestler, who is remarried and is mother to six children in the mixed family, was working on the grave site in preparation for a visit from her son’s platoon, who will arrive on Shelter Island on May 19 and stay until May 22.
Shelter Islanders, Kestler said, have not forgotten the sacrifice her son made to protect his community and the rest of the world from terrorist attacks. Many have already opened their doors to offer housing for members of the platoon while they visit.
“The community has not only come together to rally behind Joey but to make sure every one of our soldiers gets home safely,” she said.