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Carper: “Christopher Slutman is an American hero. I promise you that he won’t soon be forgotten”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) spoke on the Senate floor honoring the life of Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman. Staff Sgt. Slutman was a Wilmington resident, a New York firefighter and a U.S. Marine. He was killed serving his country in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb went off three weeks before the end of his tour. Staff Sgt. Slutman is survived by his wife, Shannon, and their three daughters who live in Delaware.

“It was a poet named Edgar Guest – who spent his life in Detroit Michigan and was often referred to as the ‘People’s Poet’ – who once said, ‘I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,’” said Senator Carper. “Christopher Slutman’s life was a better lesson than any sermon. He demonstrated the absolute best of this country every day with his heroism and service to others.  The way he lived his life – and gave his life – is a language that is clear to one and all.”

Video of Senator Carper’s full remarks are available here.

The text of Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:

 “Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to an American hero and patriot who was taken from us far too soon. Earlier this month, I was standing in the flight line at the Dover Air Force Base alongside Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and Senator Chris Coons. We were there to receive the remains of three Marines killed in action on April 8, 2019, when a roadside bomb went off in Afghanistan. Two of the servicemembers killed were active duty: Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, of Long Island, New York, and Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines of York County, Pennsylvania.

 “There was a third: Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, a reservist, a fifteen-year member of the New York City Fire Department, and a Delawarean. The 43-year old U.S. Marine was also a loving husband to his wife Shannon and father to three daughters – McKenna, Kenley, and Weslynn. In life and in death, Staff Sgt. Slutman epitomized the best of America. He selflessly put his life on the line to protect and serve his country and his community.

 “It was Winston Churchill who once said, ‘The reservist is twice the citizen.’ By that measure, Christopher Slutman was three times the citizen. He wore two uniforms in service to our nation. He was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marines, serving in the 25th Marine Regiment, Fourth Marine Division in the Marine Forces Reserve, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was also a decorated 15-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department.

“Friends say that Christopher always dreamed of being a firefighter. He grew up in Maryland and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School where he played football, baseball and wrestled, and achieved Eagle Scout status. Eventually, he volunteered with fire departments in Maryland and Washington D.C. Most recently, he split his time between the Bronx and Wilmington, Delaware. Most days, I ride down to Washington, D.C. from my home in Wilmington to do my job. Staff Sgt. Slutman took the train the opposite direction to do his job. He so wanted to serve that he would travel from his home in Delaware to Ladder Company 27 in New York City. In fact, he was on military leave from Ladder Company 27 and nearing the end of his most recent deployment with the Marine reserves in Afghanistan when he and two comrades lost their lives.  

“It was Slutman’s work in the Bronx where, in 2014, he won the Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal for rescuing an unconscious woman from the seventh floor of a high-rise apartment building.

“Scripture tells us in John 15:13, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Staff Sgt. Slutman lived that kind of profound love: dedicating his life to serving others, even at his own peril and it seems that this kind of selflessness and devotion to service was a hallmark of the Slutman household. Staff Sgt. Slutman is survived by three bothers. One of his brother is in the Marines, another in the Army. The third is a firefighter in Washington, D.C. Their father is an Army veteran and was a volunteer firefighter, as was Slutman’s mother. Here is a family who has, and continues to, truly give of themselves in service of others.

“Last Friday, I was honored to have been able to join Staff Sgt. Slutman’s family, friends and fellow service members in New York City to pay our respects to a man who gave his life for this country.The first speaker at his funeral was Marine Sgt. Major Christopher Armstrong, who served alongside his friend Chris for eight years. Armstrong remembered his friend with these words. He said: ‘Upon joining the unit, I began observing the Marines; who they watched, how they looked at their leaders, and what they said. There were a small number of men that when they spoke, silence fell; when they issued an order, the response was immediate; and when they were looked upon, it was with reverence. Christopher Slutman immediately stood out as a leader who was respected and admired. He didn't pound his chest, he didn’t try to impress or go on about what he was going to do. He just did it.’

“Armstrong continued, ‘He placed his Marines’ welfare before his own, always. Chris never sought credit, but he always gave it.’

“FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro also spoke. He described Slutman as ‘the type of American we can all be proud of.’ And added, ‘Chris was a protector of those in danger, a defender to those who needed him, a rescuer to those who needed saving, and a leader who demonstrated his valor on every tour of duty both here and abroad.’

“Mr. President, it was a poet named Edgar Guest – who spent his life in Detroit, Michigan and was often referred to as the ‘People’s Poet’ – who once said, ‘I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.’ Christopher Slutman’s life was a better lesson than any sermon. He demonstrated the absolute best of this country every day with his heroism and service to others. The way he lived his life – and gave his life – is a language that is clear to one and all.

“It is with a heavy heart that I – along with the entire First State and the country – offer our sincerest condolences to his wife Shannon and his three girls. Their dad is an American hero. I, along with our Governor, John Carney, and Delaware’s congressional delegation, promise you that he won’t soon be forgotten, and I know that his legacy lives on in you.

“With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.”