A deadly act of terrorism in Kenya claimed the life of a young Illinois man on Jan. 5.
The Department of Defense confirmed Evergreen Park local Henry J. Mayfield Jr., 23, died during the al-Shabab terror group’s Sunday morning raid at the Manda Air Strip in Lamu county, about 415 miles southeast of Nairobi.
“[The specialist private first class] was killed Jan. 5, 2020, during an attack in Manda Bay, Kenya,” the department said in a statement. “Mayfield was assigned to first battalion, 58th aviation regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group [at] Fort Rucker, Ala.”
The victim’s family are preparing to make the heartbreaking journey to Dover Air Force Base to bring Mayfield’s body to Hazel Crest where he will receive a hero’s welcome.
“My son was a great man and we love him and we’re going to miss him,” father Henry Mayfield said according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.
Aunt Tawanna Cotten Finner felt losing her nephew was “devastating no matter how it occurs.”
“This was a senseless act of violence that has changed our lives forever,” Finner said in a statement obtained by the broadcaster. “Our son was a great big brother, cousin, and above all he was an awesome person. We will miss him tremendously. He brought joy to everyone he came into contact with. We will miss that joy.”
Mayfield had supported Operation Octave Shield when the attack began at about 5:30 a.m. local time.
“Multiagency forces engaged and successfully repulsed an attempted terrorist breach of Manda Air Strip,” Kenya Defense Forces said on Facebook. “The situation has been contained on ground and normal airstrip functions set to resume.”
The operation killed at least five suspected terrorists and there is potential for more bodies to be recovered as the search continues.
“Search for more is ongoing,” the forces said. “One PK machine gun, four rocket-propelled grenade launchers, four AK 47 rifles, one hand grenade and assorted ammunition were [also] captured.”
The attack also resulted in stored fuel igniting at the facility.
“Arising from the unsuccessful breach a fire broke out affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip,” the forces said on Facebook. “The fire has been put under control and standard security procedures are now ongoing.”
Bloomberg reported two more service members were wounded and evacuated.Two American contractors also died in the attack.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” U.S. Africa Command Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a statement according to the news agency.