A young soldier’s hometown salutes his service with a somber celebration, dedicating every January 14 from now on as “Henry Mayfield Jr. Day,” in the village of Hazel Crest.
The 23-year-old Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. was one of three people killed when militants attacked a military base in Kenya on Jan. 4. Two defense department contractors were also killed in the attack, according to Pentagon officials.
On Tuesday, Mayfield’s family, friends and community gathered to honor his life with a dedication day and yellow-ribbon ceremony.
More than a hundred people attended for a prayer service, a moment of silence and to tie yellow ribbons throughout the community. The color yellow, according to village officials, signifies a soldier’s homecoming.
“They came from all different communities around the area...it was just overwhelming, and it shows people support each other,” said Vernard Alsberry Jr., Hazel Crest Village President.
Alsberry Junior is also a veteran, having served ten years in the U.S. Air Force.
“I think it touches all of us veterans who actually make it home,” said Alsberry Jr. “At any time, something can happen to you.”
Dozens of other veterans also attended the memorial Tuesday for Mayfield, grateful for his service.
“We’re lucky because that young man, he gave the ultimate sacrifice," said John Smith, who served in the Korean War. "We made it back home, and he didn’t. I had to be here to see his parents and say thank you from us."
The pain is still raw for Mayfield’s family. His grandmother, Annette Horton, clutched the proclamation dedicating Tuesday to her grandson, while stating how grateful she was for the support from the community--though it will take time to heal.
“I’m hurting real hard about my grandbaby," Horton said. "Little Henry was a beautiful young man. I’m just thankful he was a hero.”
Mayfield’s body will return home Wednesday afternoon by military transport.
There will be an escorted procession* from O’Hare International Airport back to Hazel Crest.
In addition, a visitation is scheduled from noon until 8 p.m. Friday at Doty Nash Funeral Home. Mayfield’s funeral is Saturday and his final resting place will be at Lincoln Cemetery in Elwood.
*via Higgins Road West to I-90 East to I-294 South to I-57 South to 167th St. East to Pulaski South (passing Hillcrest High School with students outside) to 175th East to Kedzie South to 183rd West to the Village Hall.