Henry Mayfield Jr., the U.S. soldier killed in a terrorist attack in Kenya, was from Illinois, and he was remembered as a hero and “outstanding” person who joined the Army because he couldn’t afford college.
His full name was Army Spc. Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and he had big dreams for his future. His mom told NBC5: “He loved his family and spending quality time with his siblings.” She said the last call she received from her son was via FaceTime.
“We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base,” Carmoneta Mayfield told the network. “He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Department of Defense Confirmed That Mayfield Was the Lone U.S. Soldier Killed in a Kenyan Terrorist Attack
The Department of Defense announced “the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Octave Shield.”
The military identified him as “Spc. Henry J. Mayfield Jr., 23, from Evergreen Park, Illinois,” who was killed January 5, 2020, during “an attack in Manda Bay, Kenya. The incident is under investigation.”
“Mayfield was assigned to 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group, Fort Rucker, Alabama.”
Two American contractors also lost their lives when Al-Shabab terrorists from Somalia, linked to Al-Qaeda, overran the base in Kenya. One was identified by his family as Dustin Harrison, a married father from Arizona who worked as a contract pilot for the Department of Defense. The other contractor’s name has not been released.
2. Mayfield Joined the Military Because He Couldn’t Afford College
It’s a story that takes place all over America; young people looking for opportunity sign up to join the military. According to The Chicago Tribune, Mayfield left Northern Illinois University after a year and joined the Army “hoping to jump-start his future.”
He couldn’t afford college, so at first it was a practical decision, but he “quickly came to enjoy serving,” his father, Henry Mayfield Sr. told the newspaper. Mayfield was only 20 when he entered the Army, and his dad told the newspaper, “He couldn’t really afford college, so he figured that the Army would help him through that.”
He wanted to start a trucking business when he was done serving, the Tribune reported. He attended Hillcrest High School and initially studied business in college. In Kenya, where he had been since October, Mayfield “worked installing, maintaining and repairing heating and cooling systems,” according to the Tribune.
3. Mayfield’s Mom Described Him as Her ‘Hero’
Mayfield’s mother, Carmoneta Horton-Mayfield, a senior account manager, has posted a series of remembrances on Facebook. She’s also rejected efforts to set up GoFundMe accounts for the family, writing, “We really didn’t want to give this any energy but it seems necessary at this time. Henry Mayfield (the soldier’s dad) and I will not nor do we have any go fund me accounts set up for Henry Jr Mitch Mayfield. All that we ask is for you to keep our family lifted up in prayer. Thank you.”
She wrote of her son, “He would fall asleep as soon as the car pulled off. ???? My baby? my hero❤️. #ridestoniu #henrymayfieldjr. Once again we would like to say thank you to everyone for your support during this time. Your words have been so kind and very much appreciated in these tough times. Continue to keep us in your prayers.??.”
4. Friends Recalled How Mayfield ‘Went Out a Hero’
A friend wrote on Facebook that Mayfield “on his last day bragged he was a LEGEND because ASIG gave him a party for leaving for the Army.. He Definitely Was Right tho.. He Went Out As A HERO ? And A LEGEND?… It was a pleasure knowing you lil bro fr these last 5 years.. It’s rare to meet someone at a job and become friends outside of it and know that the friendship was genuine.. Love you lil bro ??.”
The friend added, “I didn’t even sleep at all last night.. You never think it could be someone you know ?.”
Mayfield joined the Army in 2018, according to Stars and Stripes.
“Al-Shabab is a brutal terrorist organization,” U.S Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler in a statement to ABC News after the deaths in Kenya. “It is an Al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to establish a self-governed Islamic territory in East Africa, to remove Western influence and ideals from the region, and to further its jihadist agenda. U.S. presence in Africa is critically important to counter-terrorism efforts.
5. Mayfield Was Remembered as an ‘Outstanding Young Man’ Who ‘Was Always Polite’
Before joining the military, Mayfield attended Northern Illinois University, according to CBS Chicago.
A neighbor, Hazel Crest Village Clerk Isaac Wiseman, told the television station of Mayfield: “Outstanding young man, always polite, always just very nice. It’s breaking my heart. It really is, it’s breaking my heart. I just saw him this summer. I don’t have words to say. It’s just breaking my heart.”
Mayfield’s Facebook page says he was based at Fort Rucker in Alabama.