Sky Mote’s family helping wounded warriors
“It’s helped me so much to keep that connection,” said Russell Mote, father of Staff Sgt. Sky Mote, who was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 10, 2012, just one day after he was awarded the Navy Marine Commendation Medal for combat heroism.
The connection Russell Mote values is the tie between his family and Sky’s Special Operations teammates, a connection nurtured by the Marines Corps Special Operations Command Foundation.
“Sky was in Special Operations,” said Mote, “and the public is not supposed to know who they are or what they do, so we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to connect with them, but the MARSOC Foundation found a way. We didn’t need financial support, but we did need that connection and they’ve become a family for us.”
The connection with Sky’s Special Ops teammate includes Sgt. Bryan Jacques, who was wounded during the attack by a person dressed as local Afghanistan police that killed Sky and two others. The incident is still under investigation, said Mote and may result in another medal.
Jacques, despite his own severe injuries, attended Sky’s funeral on Aug.19 in El Dorado Hills. He’s currently working through rehabilitation and has had several surgeries on his arm, with more to come. “He told me that Sky had always said he wanted to do an Ironman Triathlon with me,” said Mote, “and now we are training to do one together. He said he needed something to work toward in his rehabilitation.”
Jacques is training for the September Lake Tahoe Ironman in San Diego, while Mote is training for the 2.4-mile swim, 102-mile bike ride and 26-mile marathon here. “The Leadman Man Triathlon we did on April 14 was the kickoff,” said Mote.
Mote is a life science teacher at Rolling Hills Middle School and assistant coach for Cycle Development, Oak Ridge High School’s mountain bike team. Wife Marcia, who is also part of Cycle Development, and sons Tyson and Carson participated in the Leadman with Russell.
It’s not so much about what the active Mote family is doing, but why. The family has a history of taking 360-mile bike rides down the coast of California to raise money for a small village in South Africa. Now they want to help Sky’s fellow soldiers.
“I want to really put on a big push to raise money for the Ride 430 in October,” said Russell. “Especially getting corporate sponsors. I would rather raise a lot of money at major event than a little bit at several events.”
Ride 430 is a four-day, 430-mile ride that climbs 16,000 vertical feet over peaks in Arizona. The ride raises money for the MARSOC Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund and for Knights of Heroes, “three organizations that help get the wounded back into life, helps their families and helps those who have lost a service member stay connected,” Russell explained.
The MARSOC Foundation provides support to active duty and medically retired MARSOC personnel and the families of Marines who were killed. Services include advanced rehabilitation programs and equipment, advanced vocational training, funding for treatment not covered by the government, advocacy and services for children in the Exceptional Family Member Program, funeral services and travel costs to funerals and commemorations not covered by the Department of Defense, as well as reintegration activities and mentor programs for service members returning from combat.
The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for critically ill or injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their families. They sent staff, volunteers and amputees to Boston after the marathon to financially support, encourage and provide guidance for those injured in the explosions.
Knights of Heroes empowers children who have lost their fathers through mentoring and participation in a wilderness adventure camp.
“Sky was the kind of guy who would always be there for his friends and their families if they were injured,” Russell said. He shared a letter from the family of one of Sky’s fellow Marines who was killed in combat. The letter expresses their appreciation of Sky’s appearance at their son’s funeral and his advocacy of services and support for their son’s widow.
Sky, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, earned eight medals in his nine years in the Marines: a Purple Heart, a Navy/Marine Corps Medal, two Combat Action ribbons,three Good Conduct awards and, most recently, a Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a “v,” denoting combat heroism. Sky earned the citation after defusing two IEDs on a bridge in Afghanistan, rendering medical aid to his team leader who was struck by a third IED and then arranging casualty evacuations — all from an area known to contain lethal mines.
“He didn’t care about medals,” said his father. “He never showed them to us. Once, I found one in his dirty laundry.” Although medal award ceremonies for Special Ops are not open to the public, the Mote family was invited to a special commemorative service on Jan.25 to receive Sky’s medal. There is a possibility that Sky Mote will be awarded still another medal after the investigation into his death is completed, said Russell. “But the thing he was the proudest of was his EOD badge.”
The Mote family moved to a new house in El Dorado Hills after Sky’s death. “We needed the support we found by being closer to the community. I didn’t want to keep seeing the Marines (who brought the news of Sky’s death) in my doorway, ” Russell said.
There are no pictures of Sky on the walls yet. “I’m just not ready for it right now,” he explained.
He marveled at the outpouring of support he and his family received from friends, neighbors and strangers after Sky’s death. “People just showed up and did things,” Russell said. “There was a fly-over of vintage planes at his funeral. We didn’t ask for that; the people just offered and it was so absolutely right for Sky because he loved planes and went into the Marines because you could become a navigator. I don’t even know their names to tell them thank you.”
It’s the community support and generosity that the Mote family wants to call upon now to support the organizations who help wounded Marines trying to rehabilitate and their families. “I want to get everyone involved and really make a difference. We can go bigger, have businesses to support this. That’s my big push this year, to raise a lot of money for Ride 430 and celebrate Bryan’s participation in the Ironman,” Russell said.
After his son’s death, Russell was contacted by the Toby Keith Foundation. “I wasn’t ready to think about anything they could help with then, but I am now and if we could get businesses from this area to put on a big fundraiser or help with a dinner or an auction, that would be the best.”
When the family did the Leadman Triathlon in Arizona, the MARSOC Foundation purchased and modified a bike for a wounded Marine to aid in his rehabilitation and he used it in the triathlon. “Being with the MARSOC guys that weekend was so uplifting and helping others is helping us with the healing process,” Russell said.
To donate to Ride 430 in Sky Mote’s name, visit ride430.com and click on the Mote family “Ride for Sky.” Corporations and businesses that want to help with a fundraising dinner or auction can contact John Greenway at [email protected] or Sarah Christian at [email protected].