Family of Ft. Rucker soldier heartbroken over young man’s death

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HAZEL CREST, Ill. (WGN/WDHN) — A U.S. soldier formerly assigned to Fort Rucker was among three people killed in an attack on a military base in Kenya Sunday.

Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. of Hazel Crest, 23, was killed along with two U.S. contractors after terrorists with al-Shabab attacked his installation. Mayfield joined the Army in 2018 to help pay for school.

Mayfield Jr.’s father, Henry Mayfield Sr., is heartbroken after hearing the news.

“My son was a great man,” Mayfield Sr. said. “We love (him) and we are going to miss him.”

Mayfield Jr. graduated from Hillcrest High School and briefly attended Northern Illinois University before joining the Army in June 2018 to help pay for school.

He was later assigned to the 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group out of Fort Rucker, Alabama. According to military officials, he worked as an air traffic services mechanic.

“The loss of a child is devastating, no matter how it occurs,” said Tawanna Cottenfinner, Mayfield’s aunt. “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. We will miss him tremendously. He brought joy to everyone he came in contact with.”

Members of National Women Veterans United were among those offering their support to the family Monday morning.

“The family lives right down the street from me, and it really breaks my heart to hear we lost another one,” Rochelle Crump said.

Crump said the family will need comfort and support in the coming days, especially his mother.

“She’ll have bad days and we know she’ll have bad days, so you don’t get over that quickly,” Crump said. “She needs to know that her son’s service and his death was not in vain.”

Members of the extremist group, al-Shabab, overran the Manda Bay Airfield near a U.S. Military base, destroying planes and equipment. The airstrip is near the Somalian border and is used by US forces for training and counterterrorism efforts.

Mayfield was there as part of Operation Octave Shield, the operation aimed at combatting terror groups in Somalia.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Specialist Henry ‘Mitch’ Mayfield’s family, friends and loved ones,” Col. William Garber said. “Specialist Mayfield was a dynamic Soldier who inspired those he served with to excel both on and off duty. The 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group will miss his leadership and camaraderie.”

Kenya’s military said at least four attackers were killed.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the assault. The attack is still under investigation, according to the Department of Defense.

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