You get a gut feeling when someone you love is dead.
Four days ticked off with nothing but telephone calls saying there was no news of Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Mayo, missing from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea.
A grim Marine Corps sergeant delivered word Tuesday to Mayo’s parents that the air and sea search for their only child was called off after 72 fruitless hours.
But Stan and Cindy Mayo “never got that feeling that (Zachary) was gone,” Stan Mayo said Wednesday night. “We were real down, but we still kept that positive feeling.”
“I told Stan even if it’s 20 years from now … our son walks through the door,” Cindy Mayo said.
They probably won’t have to wait any longer than Christmas to see him.
At 4 a.m. Wednesday, a man with a Pakistani accent broke their agonizing wait with a telephone call, excitedly chattering “Stan Mayo? Stan Mayo? Do you want to talk to Zachary?”
After hearing a calm “Hi Dad,” Stan Mayo asked, “How are you Zach, and where in the hell are you?”
“I felt like I’d been reborn again, from the inside out,” the father said later. “I believe God did a miracle on this.”
A calm Zachary Mayo, 20, told his parents he went for a midnight walk on the back deck of the USS America on Friday because he couldn’t sleep. A heavy metal door blew open and knocked him into the water and he wasn’t discovered missing until about 7 a.m. Saturday.
It’s not clear which deck Mayo fell from, meaning he dropped either 45 or 90 feet, according to news reports.
Mayo tied knots in the arms and legs of his jumpsuit, fashioned it into a balloon and treaded water until Pakistani fishermen rescued him 36 hours later. It took two more days for the fishing boat to reach port.
Little is known about Mayo’s ordeal at sea, save that he is uninjured beyond fatigue and sunburn. “We didn’t talk details - sharks and the size of boats,” Cindy Mayo said.
The fishermen took Mayo to their home port of Gwadar, Pakistan, near the Iranian border. Mayo first called the U.S. Embassy and then his parents.
“The tickler was we got to call the Marine Corps casualty officers at 4:30 in the morning,” Cindy Mayo said. “We knew before they did.
“And when his commanding officer called to say he was all right, I said ‘I know,”’ she said, answering questions in the kitchen of a modest, cream-colored house in Osburn.
Twenty feet from her, the refrigerator sported a red-and-white bumper sticker: “Proud parent of a Wallace High Honor Student.” Walls in the next room held pictures tracing every year of a happy-go-lucky Silver Valley lad’s life.
Mayo will fly to Karachi, Pakistan, then to Saudi Arabia and back to his ship today. He will be there for a brief examination and then gets the option of coming home for a visit, his mother said.
Mayo’s parents aren’t sure he will take a vacation. “He’s a pretty dedicated Marine,” Stan Mayo said.
A native of Osburn, Zachary Mayo rose to the rank of cadet captain and second in command of his high school ROTC program. He signed up for the Marine Corps when he was a junior in high school and left for boot camp 20 days after graduation.
He is an aircraft hydraulics mechanic, working on EA-6B Prowlers, radar-jamming aircraft.
“I wasn’t too crazy about (the Marines),” said Stan Mayo, a foreman for Sunshine Mines. “But it’s depressed around here. And we’ve always supported him.”
Mayo was described as a level-headed, intelligent, common-sense guy by Sgt. Maj. Dan Garrett, his high school ROTC instructor.
Garrett and the family pastor comforted Mayo’s parents Saturday night after hearing that the Marine was missing.
They “just kept talking about all of the possibilities of him being on a island or being picked up by a tanker or a fishing boat,” Garrett said.
Mayo’s mother kept asking questions, and Garrett kept saying he wished he knew the answers.
Considering all of the safety nets, lifelines and lookouts, Zachary’s plunge into the sea was a fluke, Garrett said.
And that’s a mystery the military is hoping to solve, according to press statements.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color); Map of Arabian Sea area