Over the past two years, has strengthened the bond between civilian and soldier, and brought the plight of the warrior directly to the scenic landscapes from Greenport to Mattituck.
And now Shelter Islanders — no strangers themselves to that fight — will be able to ride alongside warriors on their own home turf.
The Shelter Island Spur Ride celebrates its first trip around the island on Sunday, a tribute to Army Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, who was killed in action on June 4, 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
The two events take place on back-to-back days; Saturday on the North Fork and Sunday on Shelter Island.
The evolved from last year's Soldier Ride, which benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. Last year's ride was run in Theinert's honor, as it will continue to be, and many Shelter Islanders only felt it natural to start one in the place he grew up.
"We thought this could be one more way for the community to come together and remember one young man and the men and women who serve," said Chrys Kestler, Theinert's mother. "It's about showing them that people care and our community hasn't forgotten what they've done. Joey's name might be attached to it, but it's really about what they've done."
The Spur Ride — a nod to the spurs Theinert earned as a Calvary member, a tradition which dates back to the Army's roots — will benefit the Joseph J. Theinert Scholarship Fund. It kicks off at the on Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
Matt Rohde, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and worked with Theinert at the South Ferry, penciled out the routes in 12.5 and 25 mile distances around Shelter Island and helped organize the event. He said that following the success the Soldier Rides have seen on the East End — — people started asking why the hometown of a fallen soldier shouldn't host their own.
"The inspiration came from the Soldier Ride in Joey's name," said Rohde. "After talking with Chrys, and putting our heads together, we decided to have one on Shelter Island. We've done quite a few events with Joey's troops in it. And it's amazing to see the volunteers that come out and make every event a great event."
Other events in Theinert's memory have included a , a , and a in Greenport.
Dennis O'Donnell, who has organized the North Fork Soldier Rides, approached Kestler before last year's event and asked if he could hold the event in Theinert's memory. O'Donnell, whose son is a sergeant in the Florida National Guard, has been cycling for five years, and said he's been told firsthand the therapeutic effects riding can have for those who come home from battle.
"I'm not a clinician or a doctor, but many warriors have told me that cycling has helped them deal with emotional distress," said O'Donnell. The result, he said, has been a sense of purpose for himself in setting up the annual ride, an opportunity to connect members of the public with those who have served their country.
"I don't want to sound too dramatic, but this has absolutely altered my life," he added. "It's very inspiring. But there is a lot of work to be done. I think there's a movement growing and the public wants ways to connect and say thanks."
The State of New York recognized the legacy Theinert and a Sag Harbor native, fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter, this past May when they were
As for Kestler, whose husband, Mattituck and Shelter Island dentist Dr. Francis A. Kestler, was deployed three weeks ago with the Army Reserve to Afghanistan, she said she's the one who wants to say thank you.
"The outpouring from both forks, and particularly Shelter Island — I wouldn't be standing here today if I didn't have the community's support."
Theinert's father is James Theinert, of Sag Harbor.