At 6:05 p.m. on Aug. 19, a Marine, noticeably taller than his fellows, quietly began issuing orders. The Marines slowly walked to the back of a hearse parked behind Faith Episcopal Church in Cameron Park, and raised their hands in salute as bagpipes played in the background. They carefully moved the flag-wrapped casket containing Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote to a waiting caisson. The pallbearers took positions on either side of the caisson and the procession began moving, the gathered crowd of a few hundred Marines, law enforcement and members of the community fell in behind the family, all led by a CHP cruiser.
Pastor Gene Jewell and the Rev. Kent McNair led the services that day for the fallen Marine, a 2003 graduate of Union Mine High School, which featured prayers, psalms and readings from the Bible. Family members and fellow Marines spoke highly of the man who, along with Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian, 29, of Los Altos Hills, and Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, of Herndon, Va., was killed by an Afghan policeman in the Helmand province on Aug. 10 after the three were invited over for a pre-dawn meal to discuss security.
Three days prior to the memorial service, around 200 people lined up to pay respects as Mote’s body was brought home to McClellan Air Field. A Dassault Falcon jet taxied to the hangers, bringing with it the casket, soon transferred to a hearse by Marine pallbearers. Members of the El Dorado Hills Honor Guard conducted a solemn color guard ceremony, complete with bagpipes.
At 5:25 p.m., the procession began. A half dozen CHP motorcycles sped into place, leading the motorcade. The motorcycles were followed by a CHP cruiser and limousines for Mote’s family. Vehicles from the FBI’s bomb squad, the Air Force’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Butte County’s bomb squad — Mote had been part of a Marine Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad — were joined by fire engines from regional departments including El Dorado Hills Fire, Cameron Park Fire, Diamond Springs Fire and Sacramento Metro Fire and other regional law enforcement cruisers. The final car represented the American Red Cross. Next came the motorcycle guard, streaming through the gate from the tarmac.
As they left the former Air Force base, the procession rode under the extended arm of a Sac Metro fire engine flying the American flag. Overpasses in between were lined with supporters with more fire engines flying even more flags. The procession made a detour to pass by Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills, where Mote’s father Russell teaches science. Trees lining the roads to the school were decorated with posters and ribbons. Along the long street the school is on, the motorcade was met with a crowd of hundreds waiting to honor a life given in the line of duty.
At the memorial service, after moving outside, a traditional gun salute was given and flags were folded and presented to Marcia Mote, Sky’s stepmother, and Carson Mote, Sky’s younger brother. Russ Mote was presented with Sky’s Purple Heart medal. After a final salute, the pallbearers carried the casket to the hearse, surrounded by Patriot Guard Riders bearing flags.
As the hearse began to leave, one member of the audience shouted “Oorah, Sky,” before the motorcycles of the Patriot Guards drowned out sound. Following the hearse and motorcycles, the flag bearers marched around the side of the church as people began lining up to shake hands and hug the family.