A veteran New York City firefighter and married father of three was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, where he was serving his country as a U.S. Marine, the head of the FDNY and Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday.
Christopher Slutman, 43, was one of the three Americans killed in Monday's bombing near the main American base north of Kabul, an attack for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility, the Department of Defense said Tuesday evening.
Slutman was a 15-year FDNY veteran who was an "American hero, a New York hero," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Slutman, who worked with Ladders 27 and 17 in the Bronx, is survived by his wife and three young daughters.
A second New Yorker, 25 year-old Robert Hendriks of Locust Valley also died in the attack. Benjamin Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania, was the third victim, the Department of Defense said.
Slutman was honored with the Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal after saving a woman from a fire in July 2013. He and a colleague, Lt. Gregory Macagnone, had to crawl on the floor, past the flames, to reach the unconscious woman in a back bedroom. Slutman and Macagnone dragged the woman out of the apartment and into a public hallway, handing her over to EMS on a sixth-floor elevator so that she could be taken to a hospital, her life saved.
De Blasio said he was the one who presented Slutman the medal and, reflecting on that moment Tuesday, called it "an example of the measure of this man."
The mayor ordered flags across the city lowered to half-staff in his honor. Firefighters at his company in the Bronx were earlier seen lowering the flag outside their engine-house Tuesday.
Slutman was appointed to the FDNY on Sept. 14, 2003. A Marine for eight years, he remained a sergeant in the Marine Reserves and also was a member of the Emerald Society. Slutman lived in Yonkers with his wife and daughters at the time of the 2013 blaze; it appears they most recently lived in Wilmington, Delaware, and that Slutman commuted to New York when he had to work.
"Firefighter Slutman bravely wore two uniforms and committed his life to public service both as a New York City Firefighter and as a member of the United States Marine Corps,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "The hearts and prayers of the entire Department are with his loved ones and with the families of his fellow service members who lost their lives in service to our nation."
Slutman becomes the 1,152nd FDNY member to die in the line of duty. He's the fourth FDNY member to die while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the military action in those countries in 2003. Currently, 73 FDNY personnel are on extended military orders in the U.S. Armed Forces, serving around the world -- and 1,425 members of the department are reservists or veterans.
Funeral arrangements for him are pending.
Slutman also had a storied volunteer career, serving with The Kentland Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.
"During his 19-year career he rose through the ranks to become a Wagon Driver, Captain, but most of all – he was a fireman," the Kentland department wrote in a Facebook post. "Through this trying time, we will remember Chris for the father, husband, brother, son, and friend that he was, the moral character he displayed daily, and the courage and conviction to serve his fellow Americans, both at home and abroad."
In their claim of responsibility, the Taliban said they launched the attack and that one of their suicide bombers detonated his explosives-laden vehicle near the NATO base. The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled.
Monday's U.S. fatalities bring to seven the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, underscoring the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-wrecked country even as Washington has stepped up efforts to find a way to end the 17-year war, America's longest.
There are about 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, supporting embattled Afghan forces as they struggle on two fronts — facing a resurgent Taliban who now hold sway over almost half the country and also the Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to expand its footprint in Afghanistan even as its self-proclaimed "caliphate" has crumbled in Syria and Iraq.
Last year, 13 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan.
“We feel and mourn the loss of these Americans with their families and loved ones. They volunteered to protect their country. We will continue our mission,” said Gen. Scott Miller, Commanding General of Resolute Support and United States Forces – Afghanistan.