He was fighting terrorist forces in Africa. He was killed on Sunday.

HAZEL CREST, Ill. — Henry Mayfield, Jr. grew up outside Chicago. His family told CBS Chicago he joined the army after college and was deployed to a base in Kenya.

"I last spoke with him New Year’s Day via FaceTime,” said Mayfield Jr’s mother in an email to NBC 5.

“We discussed him not having to go to Somalia, and he told me everything was good and safe at his base.”

But everything was not safe.

Henry Mayfield Jr's mother says the United States Army Specialist was killed in an extremist attack.

He was 23 years old.

The Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Sunday morning raid on Manda Bay Airfield that also killed two American contractors.

According to CBS Chicago, it took hours for U.S. and Kenyan forces to repel the attack. Mayfield Jr’s family was notified Sunday evening.

"He loved his family and spending quality time with his siblings," said his mother.

ABC 7 reports Mayfield Jr’s body will be returned to Dover Air Force Base on Monday. His family will be there to bring him home.

Mayfield Jr’s aunt, Tawanna Cotton Finner, released this statement on behalf of the family:

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.

Eric Cox
Loved ones confirm @USArmy Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. was 1 of 3 Americans killed during a pre-dawn terror attack on a U.S. airfield base in Kenya.

He was just 23-years-old.

Mayfield Jr. is from Chicago suburb Hazel Crest.@cbschicago