The sailor shot and killed Monday by a civilian at Naval Station Norfolk jumped between the gunman and a petty officer, saving that officer's life, Navy officials said Wednesday.
The victim has been identified by the Navy as Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo, 24.
Mayo died aboard the destroyer USS Mahan when a civilian with transport worker's credentials approached the quarter deck and disarmed a petty officer and Mayo responded to the scene. He was the chief of the guard, a security role, according to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to publicly release the information.
"His job was military police," said his father, Decondi Mayo. "It's a high risk thing. He did what he had to do to service his country and he did his job."
Several rounds were fired, and Mayo was fatally wounded before the civilian was killed by other security forces.
"I just don't see how this could have happened on one of the largest Navy bases in America," said his brother Timothy Borum. "I mean, it shouldn't have been that simple for something like this to happen like that."
The civilian drove a tractor-trailer through an entry point despite having no business on base, Navy officials said. Once on the base, he ditched the truck and got to the ramp to the Mahan.
"Petty Officer Mayo's actions on Monday evening were nothing less than heroic. He selflessly gave his own life to ensure the safety of the Sailors on board USS Mahan," said Capt. Robert E. Clark, Jr., commanding officer, Naval Station Norfolk. "Petty Officer Mayo's family has endured a tremendous loss, as have the men and women of Naval Station Norfolk, in the loss of a shipmate and friend."
Mayo enlisted in the Navy in Oct. 2007 and reported to Naval Station Norfolk in May 2011. He had been a military police officer since 2008.
He grew up in Hagerstown, Md., and graduated from Williamsport High School in 2007 after winning a county wrestling championship in his weight class. His high school teachers say he was a charming but fearless competitor for whom the Navy represented another step out of poverty.
"Mark was a gentleman," said his mother, Sharon Blair. "Mark was raised to treat people good and to work hard."
Williamsport wrestling coach Mike Rechtorovic said Mayo saw the Navy as a way of furthering his education. He says that when he saw Mayo last summer, the sailor was proud of his service and excited about having been to Spain.
He was an above-average student with an infectious smile, said guidance counselor Randy Longnecker. "When he smiled, he really lit up a room," Longnecker said.
Officials say Mayo's birth certificate indicates he was born in Washington, D.C. School officials said the family moved to a Hagerstown-area public housing complex in 1998.
"He pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He worked really hard," Longnecker said.
Mayo's mother now lives in a single-family home in Hagerstown's West End. School records say Mayo had three siblings, an older sister and two brothers.
Mayo's father said Wednesday that the Navy had notified him of his son's death. Mayo's family said he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
"Mark did die a hero," Blair said. "Mark gave his life for his fellow man."
The case remains under investigation.
The military has focused on security since the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.