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Long Islander, FDNY member among Americans killed in Afghanistan, officials say

Firefighters set the flag to half-staff in front

Firefighters set the flag to half-staff in front of Ladder Company 27 in the South Bronx on Tuesday. Credit: Marcus Santos

Two New York Marines, a corporal from Long Island and a staff sergeant who was a New York City firefighter, were among the three men killed Monday when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, federal and local officials said Tuesday.

Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, and Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman, 43, of Yonkers died in the blast, along with Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania, as they conducted combat missions in the Parwan province as members of the Marine Forces, the U.S. Defense Department said in releasing their names late Tuesday.

Details about Hendriks were not immediately available Tuesday night, but New York City officials Tuesday morning had hailed one of the dead as their own, a veteran firefighter praised as a hero. Black bunting covered the Bronx Ladder Company 27 firehouse where Slutman had served since 2015. He joined the FDNY in 2003 and was previously assigned to Ladder Company 17, also in the Bronx.

Slutman wore two uniforms — his FDNY gear and his Marine Corps staff sergeant camouflage — but whatever he had on, he was a hero, city officials said in mourning him.

As a firefighter, he had pulled an unconscious woman from the seventh floor of a burning building in July 2013, and a year later, Mayor Bill de Blasio presented him with the Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal in a ceremony attended by Slutman’s wife, Shannon, and their 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,” de Blasio said in a news release Tuesday.

“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 is the fourth FDNY member to die while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since the United States launched its military mission there in 2003, officials said. In March 2018, firefighters Christopher Raguso, of Commack, and Christopher Zanetis, of Long Island City, Queens, were among the airmen from Long Island’s 106th Rescue Wing who died when their helicopter went down in Iraq. There are 73 FDNY members serving in the U.S. armed forces worldwide, according to the release.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Nonprofits aimed at helping the families of slain first responders announced they will pay the mortgage for Slutman’s widow and provide annual financial support for his family.

The New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, will provide Shannon Slutman with $25,000 to pay bills now and a stipend each year for the rest of her life.

“This tragedy is a sad reminder of the dangers our first responders face while protecting us both locally and abroad and the tremendous debt we owe them,” said Lauren Profeta, ­­­executive director of Answer the Call. “Answer the Call vows to honor firefighter Slutman by helping those he loved the most — his family.”

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named after a fallen 9/11 FDNY firefighter, will pay off the Slutmans’ mortgage.

Its chairman, Frank Siller, plans to make the announcement Wednesday at Slutman’s firehouse, which was draped in black bunting Tuesday. “This man was a superhero, a member of the military and a first responder,” Siller said. “His service to our city and our country will never be forgotten.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened near the Bagram Airfield, and said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle. The account could not be reconciled with that of U.S. officials.

Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, the U.S. and NATO Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

On Tuesday, local Afghan officials said at least five Afghan civilians were wounded in the commotion after the attack.

Monday’s fatalities bring to seven the number of U.S. soldiers killed this year in Afghanistan, 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 the country supporting Afghan forces as they struggle on two fronts against a resurgent Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to expand there.

On March 22, two American service members were killed during an operation in northern Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO forces said. Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado, were based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Last year, 13 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan.

With AP


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