NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — In a somber, tear-filled ceremony, the Navy on Monday remembered a sailor who was fatally shot aboard a destroyer as a selfless hero who saved the lives of others.
A memorial service for 24-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo was held at a 1,200-seat theater at Naval Station Norfolk, where Mayo was a master-at-arms who provided security for the base.
Mayo was shot March 24 aboard the USS Mahan while it was moored at a pier at the base. The Navy has said Mayo was shot when he rushed to the defense of another sailor after a civilian truck driver disarmed her and took her gun.
The gunman, Jeffrey Savage, was killed by Navy security forces responding to the scene. The Navy has said Savage didn't have a legitimate reason to be on base the night of the shooting. The circumstances surrounding how he gained access and why he was there are still under investigation.
Cmdr. Zoah Scheneman, the Mahan's commanding officer, said Mayo died protecting people he didn't know by facing evil head on. He said that his ship's crew would honor his memory by also not ceding ground to evil.
A slideshow of personal photos of Mayo hanging out with friends and family - and even a camel - were displayed upon a movie screen as the theater filled with sailors wearing their dress blue uniforms. Many cried throughout the service. Before arriving in Norfolk in 2011, Mayo was also stationed in Bahrain and Spain.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Virgil Savage, a master-at-arms and one of Mayo's good friends, said that although the Hagerstown, Md., native wasn't big, he carried himself like a giant and always stood up for other people. Mayo wanted to be a police officer his entire life.
Friends said Mayo loved to talk about football. Seemingly against all odds, Mayo ended up as a Dallas Cowboys fan, despite spending nearly all his life in Washington Redskins territory. But Mayo wasn't afraid to speak his mind. Friends joked that was the case even when he knew he was wrong. "But, but, but, what I'm saying ... ," friends recalled Mayo saying on several occasions.
Friends and colleagues repeatedly referred to Mayo as someone who was a hero. Capt. Robert Clark, Naval Station Norfolk's commanding officer, said Mayo was someone who was unquestionably brave and didn't hesitate to act when others may have watched from the sidelines.
Mayo enlisted in the Navy in October 2007 after graduating from Williamsport High School, where he was a noted wrestler.
A funeral is scheduled April 11 in Washington, D.C., where his family lived before moving to Hagerstown in 1998. The Navy said during the service that Mayo will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis