Delawarean among war dead in dignified transfer

Marines carry fellow Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman of Newark during a dignified transfer at the Dover Air Force Base on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, a Newark resident, was among the war dead being transferred back to their families at Dover Air Force Base on Thursday night according to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.

Marine Corps Reservists Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks and Sgt. Slutman were killed by a roadside bomb Monday along with Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, according to multiple Associated Press reports.

Known as a “dignified transfer,” the solemn events are held on the base for the purposes of having next of kin identify the service member so they can be placed in a casket and transported to their final resting place, noted Mortuary Affairs.

Sgt. Slutman grew up in Maryland and lived in Delaware and New York. He was a 15-year member of the Fire Department of New York.

“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,” New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a written statement.

From left, Sgt. Maj. of Marine Corps Ronald Green, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, and Gov. John Carney during the dignified transfer of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman of Newark at the Dover Air Force Base on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Sgt. Slutman leaves behind his wife, Shannon, and three daughters.

“The decorated 15-year-veteran of the department is truly one of New York City’s Bravest — running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, Sgt. Slutman received a medal in 2014 for pulling an unconscious woman from a high-rise apartment fire in the Bronx.

Sgt. Slutman was the fourth FDNY member to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003, the city said.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., during the dignified transfer of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman of Newark at the Dover Air Force Base on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

He also is being remembered in Maryland, where he had served with the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department.

“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,” the department’s Chief Oleg Pelekhaty wrote on Facebook. “We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his firehouse brothers, his fellow Marines, his friends – but most of all, his family.”

America’s longest war

According to multiple reports, the service members were killed when a roadside bomb hit a convoy near the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, notes the Associated Press.

The base in Bagram district is located in northern Parwan province and serves as the main U.S. air facility in the country.

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, says the Associated Press.

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.

The Taliban have continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces despite holding several rounds of peace talks with the United States in recent months. The Taliban have refused to meet with the Afghan government, which they view as a U.S. puppet.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have agreed to take part in an all-Afghan gathering later this month in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office. But the Taliban say they will not recognize any government official attending the gathering as a representative of the Kabul government, only as an individual Afghan participant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Facebook Comment