The family of a 23-year-old United States Army Specialist from Hazel Crest, who was one of three people killed when militants attacked a military base in Kenya early Sunday, spoke publicly for the first time since his death, thanking the public for their support and remembering their son as "a great man."
Reading a statement from the Mayfield family Monday, Henry Mayfield Jr.'s aunt said "the loss of a child is devastating no matter how it occurs."
"This was a senseless act of violence that has changed our lives forever. Our son was a great big brother, cousin and above all he was an awesome person," Tawanna Cottenfinner said. "We will miss him tremendously. He brought joy to everyone he came in contact with. We will miss that joy. At this time we are asking for time to grieve in privacy. "
Mayfield Jr. was killed in an attack launched by al-Shabab forces before dawn at Manda Bay Airfield, his family said. Two Defense Department contractors were also killed in the attack, according to Pentagon officials.
Mayfield’s family confirmed his death Sunday evening, saying that military officials had reached out to them that afternoon to report that he had been killed in action.
"He loved his family and spending quality time with his siblings," Carmoneta, Mayfield’s mother, said in an email to NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup. "I last spoke with him New Year’s Day via FaceTime. We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base.
"He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me," she added.
Mayfield joined the Army after graduating from Hillcrest High School and attending Northern Illinois University. He joined in June 2018 and graduated from basic training in October of that year.
Mayfield was killed during an assault by al-Shabab, a group linked to Al-Qaeda. The group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pentagon has not yet confirmed their involvement.
Al-Shabab is based in neighboring Somalia, and has launched a number of attacks in Kenya in recent months. The group has been targeted by numerous U.S. airstrikes.
"My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., of Hazel Crest, IL, who made the ultimate sacrifice this weekend while serving in Kenya," Sen. Dick Durbin tweeted.
The Mayfield family said they appreciate the support they've been given in wake of their loss.
"My son was a great man," Henry Mayfield Sr. said. "We love him and are going to miss him."