In the year since the death of their beloved son and brother Marine Staff Sgt. Sky Mote, the Mote family has had to come to terms with the painful details surrounding Aug. 10, 2012.
Serving his third tour of duty, Sky, 27, worked for the Marine Special Operations Command in Afghanistan and trained local police to drive out Taliban violence. Featured this summer in a TIME magazine article, novelist Nick McDonnell detailed how Sky and two other Special Forces operators were murdered by a supposed Afghan ally in a late-night, insider attack (known as a “Green on Blue” betrayal).
Sky’s father Russ said the family lived in a fog following their loss.“One year ago I was in shock,” he said. “Today we want to say thank you to the wonderful people and organizations that have helped us through the past year.”
Last October, with only a few week’s notice, Sky’s brother Tyson and mom Marcia were invited to join The FreeWheel Foundation’s Ride for Semper Fi, a 430-mile bicycle ride from Phoenix to San Diego, which since 2008 has raised $1.2 million for injured military heroes.
“My wife Marcia hadn’t trained for that kind of ride,” said Russ.
Yet what moved the family most about the experience, Russ said, were the handprints all over the back of Marcia’s shirt by the end — the hands of Marines that physically, and emotionally, pushed her along. Being with them made the Motes feel closer to Sky and certain of their own new mission.
“When the ride was over, Marcia said, ‘Now I know why Sky liked being a Marine,’” Russ recalled.
Being enveloped in that kind of support got the Mote family through the past year and they’ve found great comfort being surrounded by military heroes like Sky who, they believe, are carrying on their son’s legacy of helping other service men and women.
This October the family will bike the 2013 Ride for Semper Fi once more, this time a more grueling trek through the mountains of Arizona, where they’ll climb 16,000 vertical feet in less than four days. But first the Motes need to raise their $10,000 goal for The FreeWheel Foundation, which will then distribute the funds evenly between The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, The Knights of Heroes Foundation and The MARSOC Foundation.
The Motes and Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill, 440 Palladio Parkway in Folsom, will host A Night With Heroes: Fundraiser for America’s Injured Soldiers at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3.
“Toby Keith’s reached out to us right after Sky’s death, but it took me awhile to be there emotionally,” said Russ.“Then I kept thinking about how Sky was adamant about helping Marines. This is our family’s way to continue his legacy.”
Toby Keith’s will provide live music and there is no cover charge. There will be line dancing, music, raffle prizes and a silent auction, which is the sole fundraising portion of the evening. Russ said they are actively seeking more auction donations.
“It will be a fun evening where you can rub elbows with those who defend our freedom,” said Russ.
Capt. Derek Herrera, Marine Special Operations, will be the featured speaker. Herrera was injured one month before Sky and the Motes now consider him a good friend.
“The dedication these service members have … it’s unbelievable,” said Russ. “They want to stay and serve despite their injuries. What is amazing to me about Capt. Herrera is his determination to keep serving and leading Marines.”
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
The Knights of Heroes Foundation empowers children who have lost their fathers during military service by providing positive adult mentorship, character development and lasting friendships forged during an annual wilderness adventure camp.
MARSOC Foundation is committed to “helping those who have sacrificed the most.” The primary service of the MARSOC foundation is to assist personnel who are injured or wounded in combat, and assist the families of MARSOC personnel with health and welfare challenges, support memorials and services that commemorate the fallen. In the weeks after Sky’s death, the MARSOC Foundation made it possible for the Mote family to travel to several Marine events and memorials, which first allowed them to connect to soldiers who served alongside Sky.
“We want to give back to the incredible groups that have helped us so much,” said Russ.”These foundations go beyond what the government does for service men and women.”
The Mote family would also like to thank the following people and businesses for their support during the past year: Folsom Bike, Town Center Bike & Tri, Folsom Lake Realty, Jim Hyatt Produce, Beretta Physical Therapy and Revolutions Cycling Center, Raceday Transport, Ride for Sky, Brooks Elementary School parent organization and Buckeye Union School District.
To donate a silent auction item contact Lisa Petrini at 916-984-8629 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Russ Mote at email@example.com. Visit rideforsky.net to make an online donation. Tax ID 27-1838385 FreeWheel Foundation.
“This means a lot to me and to my family,” said Russ. “But it means even more to the soldiers who have sacrificed so much.”