The flag-draped casket of Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman was carried atop a fire engine from a Bronx funeral home to Manhattan's majestic Saint Thomas Church. Thousands of Marines, firefighters and other responders in their dress uniforms lined both sides of Fifth Avenue for nearly a mile, saluting amid a slow drumbeat and the bagpipe strains of "Amazing Grace."
"Today our city mourns a hero," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the Episcopal service, adding that Slutman represented "the best in us." The 43-year-old father of three young daughters died April 8 near Bagram Airfield U.S military base, just three weeks before he was to return home. Two other members of Slutman's Massachusetts-based Marine Reserve unit also were killed.
A 15-year member of the Fire Department of New York, Slutman was with Ladder 27 in the Bronx. In 2014, he received a medal for bravery after rescuing an unconscious woman from a burning apartment in the South Bronx.
"Chris and his inside team forced open the door to the burning apartment and were met with high heat and thick black smoke that went from the floor to the ceiling," said Chris Williamson, who was Slutman's FDNY captain for four years. "Chris crawled on his belly through the smoke to a rear bedroom and found an unconscious woman; he did this without the protection of a fire hose."
He then dragged the woman to safety. Marine Sgt. Major Chris Armstrong described Slutman as "a leader who was respected and admired." "When I received the terrible news, my heart broke as I thought of Chris's family and unit," Armstrong said, fighting back tears.
In speaking of Slutman, Wiliamson described him as "squared away." "One phrase that seems to keep coming up when describing Chris is the term 'squared away' — used by all branches of the military to describe one whose performance is even with or above satisfactory levels. I think everyone in this church that knew Chris would wholeheartedly agree that he was way above satisfactory levels."
A native of Newark, Delaware, Slutman had served as a volunteer firefighter in Maryland. He is to be buried on Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.