Corporal Robert A. Hendriks, a Marine reservist from Locust Valley, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Monday. The 25-year-old was a decorated Marine who was set to be coming back to Locust Valley in May. On Monday, April 8th, the Department of Defense announced the death of Cpl. Hendriks. Also killed in the blast was Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, a member of the FDNY, and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania. The three were assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, a Massachusetts-based Reserve unit.
Slutman, Hines and Hendriks died when their vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device near Bagram Air Base in Parwan province. Three other U.S. troops were injured in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban has taken credit for the killing. Defense Department officials initially reported that the contractor had also been killed in the blast, but on Tuesday, April 9th, announced that he had survived.
Hendriks joined the Marine Corps directly after he graduated from Locust Valley High School in 2012.
Col. Hendrik’s body arrived back in the states on Thursday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. According to reports, Henrik’s brother Joseph escorted his brother’s remains back home. Relatives of the deceased Marines are invited to witness what the military calls a dignified transfer in which the cases containing the remains are transferred to a vehicle from the aircraft that ferried them to the United States.
Officials did not immediately respond to questions about how many members of the 25th Marines are currently deployed to Afghanistan or what their main mission there is. These are the first combat casualties for the Marine Corps since 2016. The fatalities brought to seven the number of U.S. troops killed 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 conflict.
Hendrik’s mother, Felicia, said in a statement, that she is proud of her son, “He loved what he did and he always was willing to die for his country. He loved the service, he loved his country, and he was loved by everyone who knew him.”
Funeral arrangements are pending, but the community is already honoring their fallen comrade. Governor Cuomo ordered flags to be set at half-mast in honor of the fallen marines, and at Friday night’s Islander’s playoff hockey game a moment of silence was observed in remembrance of the servicemen.
Published reports note that Hendriks was a decorated service member. He had received the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
“We feel and mourn the loss of these Americans with their families and loved ones,” U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller said in a statement. “They volunteered to protect their country.”
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of two members of the family of New York, Cpl. Hendriks and FDNY member Staff Sgt. Slutman, while they were serving our country in Afghanistan,” Governor Cuomo said. “Their deaths are a tragic reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of our service members, who put their lives in harm’s way to protect our values and way of life.”
Congressman Tom Suozzi said, “My deepest condolences to the family of Corporal Robert Hendriks. I cannot imagine the pain they must feel. Corporal Robert Hendriks is an American hero and has made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. May God bless Robert Hendriks, and grant peace and strength to his family.”
Town of Oyster Bay Councilwoman Michele Johnson noted, “My thoughts and prayers are with the family of fallen U.S. Marine Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks of Locust Valley. This brave Marine was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan while serving our Country. The Town Supervisor has ordered all flags to half-staff in honor of Cpl. Hendriks’ service. Please join me in praying for his family and all those who serve in the United States Armed Forces.”
The Oak Neck Athletic Council, for which Hendriks played football when he was a youth, is honoring him in a most unusual way. They had decals printed (donated by the Glen Cove Printery) with Hendrik’s initials which will be worn on each player’s helmet. They also held a short ceremony in remembrance of Hendriks where his former coach, Jake Jacoby, said a few words and passed out the decals.