One family turned the devastation of losing a loved one in action into a family legacy of supporting veterans and their families.

After going through the trauma of losing their son and brother, Joe Theinert, the Theinert/Kestler family decided to continue in Joe’s mission of helping others by offering therapeutic programs for veterans and their families at the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch in Magdalena.

The property of 1,100 acres, originally purchased in 2006 as a place to retire, became a refuge for the grieving family when their son and brother, Joe Theinert, was killed in Afghanistan, during combat by an improvised explosive device, in 2010. Stepdad, Dr. Francis “Doc” Kestler and mother, Chrystyna Kestler, invited Joe’s platoon to visit them in his hometown, Shelter Island, New York. The experience made such an impact on everyone they started thinking about using their property in Magdalena for retreats.

“We saw the power in bringing veterans together,” said James “Jimbo” Theinert, Joe’s brother and president of the non-profit. “I think each of us (in my family) had this powerful experience of being on the property and being in the serenity of the desert and we felt better. We go through these challenges in life, and it doesn’t feel like it’s possible in the moment that you can look at these things and grow from them. I think our family’s story has also helped participants to kind of look around and be like ‘Hey, this is what a family who has been devastated can do, how about me?’”

Theinert calls it post traumatic growth, something they strive for in their programs.

Joe and Jimbo’s parents hosted retreats in their home until February 2022 when, with the help of donations and volunteers, they were able to build a new facility on the property they call The Barracks.
In January of last year, they hosted a group of volunteer clinicians and facilitators to give them training they need to provide veteran’s services for the retreats. With the all-volunteer staff they were able to host six programs last year.

The focus is for veterans to have a therapeutic and engaging experience. Their five-day retreats include hiking, sharing meals around a campfire, mountain biking, exploring and having an opportunity to leave their mark on the ranch with service projects such as stone labyrinths, flag poles and blazing new hiking trails.

In February they will be hosting two retreats. For their 21st retreat, February 11 through February 17, they plan on building a deck with the help of 25 volunteers, including high school students, from all over the country.

“There is a stewardship we have from retreat to retreat where it’s one group that’s making improvements that will be utilized by future groups,” Theinert said.

The following week they will host a volunteer staff development for licensed mental health professionals and facilitator training.

Theinert said that by the end of this month they will have a calendar set for retreats for the year and applications will be open on their website. The non-profit is currently operating on donations, grants and volunteers. You can support them by following on social media, volunteering or making donations.

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Jessica Carranza Pino, Editor