Soldier from Hazel Crest killed in terrorist attack

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Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr.

Crusader Staff Report

Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, from Hazel Crest was killed in a terrorist attack on January 5 at Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya, by al-Shabab extremists. Two American contractors with the Department of Defense were also killed.

According to the Department of Defense, Mayfield was in Kenya as part of Operation Octave Shield. He was previously assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama, before he was deployed overseas.

Tawanna Cottenfinner, Mayfield’s aunt, delivered a statement from the family Monday morning.

“At this time, we would like to say thank you for all your kind words that we have received. 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. We will miss him tremendously. He brought joy to everyone he came into contact with. We will miss that joy. At this time, we are asking for time to grieve in privacy.”

“My son was a great man and we love him and we’re going to miss him,” his father Henry Mayfield told ABC 7 Chicago.

Mayfield’s mother Carmoneta said she was always worried after her son was deployed, but felt he was a little safer in Kenya. She never imagined what would happen.

Mayfield graduated from Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills in 2014. His family said he had plans to pursue a career in business and studied at Northern Illinois University. Mayfield joined the Army two years ago to help pay for college.

“Henry came to our school from Bogan High School during his junior year,” said Hillcrest Principal Dr. Renee Simms in a statement. “He graduated in 2014 and we are very proud to have been able to be a part of his life, even if it was only for a short amount of time. Henry will be missed by many of our alumni, staff, and community members.

“We are beyond grateful for Henry’s service to our country, and we admire him for his bravery. We will look back fondly on the memories and moments we were fortunate enough to share with him at Hillcrest High School. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”

The attack on the Manda Bay Airfield was the al-Qaida-linked group’s first attack against U.S. forces in the East African country.

The attack on the compound “involved indirect and small arms fire. After an initial penetration of the perimeter, Kenya Defense Forces and U.S. Africa Command repelled the al-Shabaab attack,” said the Africom statement.

“Reports indicate that six contractor-operated civilian aircraft were damaged to some degree. Manda Bay Airfield is utilized by U.S. forces whose missions include providing training to our African partners, responding to crises, and protecting U.S. interests in this stra- tegically important area.”

Al-Shabab claimed that there were 17 U.S. casualties, nine Kenyan soldiers killed and seven aircraft destroyed.

The U.S. Africa command dismissed the al-Shabab claims as exaggerated and said U.S. and Kenyan forces repelled the attack.

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