Family, friends and fellow firefighters gathered Friday to bid a solemn final farewell to a fallen U.S. Marine who was also a decorated FDNY firefighter.
Funeral services were held for 43-year-old Staff Sergeant Christopher Slutman, who was one of three Marines who lost their lives on April 8 near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
The funeral procession for Sgt. Slutman started in the Bronx at 9:30 a.m. before making its way to St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street.
“The last time we spoke to Chris we had a going away party for him,” FDNY Lt. Jack Meara said. “Never did we think that he wasn’t going to return, and we knew he was in a danger zone, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to your guy.”
His body was transported Monday from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to a funeral home in New York City, and the route along the New Jersey Turnpike and over the George Washington Bridge was lined with emergency responders.
“It’s very humbling, very respectful, coming all the way up from Dover and seeing firemen on every single overpass,” said Robert Eustace, with the Uniformed Firefighters Association. “Seeing a hand salute from civilians pulling over to the side of the road, it’s a real slice of Americana. It reminds you that people still remember what’s on.”
For 15 years, Slutman — a husband and a father who leaves behind his wife, Shannon, and three daughters — was part of Ladder 27 Engine 46 in the Bronx. He is also a lifetime member of the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department in Landover, Maryland.
At his wake on Thursday, he was remembered for his bravery and dedication.
“Chris was one of the most knowledgeable guys of the job that I ever worked with,” firefighter Dan Richter said. “But he always felt there was something to learn, some better way to do our jobs.”
In 2014, he received the FDNY’s Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal, an honor that Mayor Bill de Blasio recalled presenting to Slutman.
“I had the honor of presenting him in 2014 with the Fire Chiefs Association Memorial medal, and it was presented because he had rescued an unconscious woman from a burning apartment in the South Bronx,” de Blasio said. “This unquestionably is an example of a measure of this man. Christopher Slutman, an American hero, and New York hero, and we mourn his loss today.
Slutman was the fourth FDNY member lost while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003, the city said.
“On behalf of the 20,000 active duty and retired members of the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association, we offer our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Firefighter Christopher Slutman after the tragic event in Afghanistan,” FDNY-UFA Firefighters Association President Gerard Fitzgerald said. “A 15-year member of the department, Christopher was a distinguished firefighter who had a profound impact on both of his firehouses, Ladder Companies 27 and 17. Together, all firefighters grieve the loss of our brother, Christopher, who dedicated his life to protecting the people of this city, and our nation.”
Lt. Gregory Macagnone used to be Slutman’s lieutenant.
“He was an all in kind of guy,” he said. “He was all about this job. He was a great fireman, and he was a great Marine. And he sacrificed everything for it.”