Sky Mote is now closer to becoming a part of the California mountains he loved.
On Monday, the House approved a bill naming a roughly 11,240-foot Sierra Nevada peak after Mote, a Marine Corps special operator who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. The previously unnamed peak in the John Muir Wilderness was one Mote’s family knows well.
“He camped and he hiked and he biked throughout the Sierra,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., adding that the peak naming will ensure that “succeeding generations of Americans never forget.”
If the Senate follows suit, the designation of “Sky Point” would be the latest honor accorded Mote. Last year, the late staff sergeant was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions as an explosive ordinance disposal technician with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.
The Navy Cross is the Marine Corps’ second-highest award for courage.
“Marine Staff Sgt. Sky Mote cared about a lot of things. His fellow Marines. His country. His family. His community,” McClintock said. “But his father Russell recalled, he never cared about medals.”
McClintock’s congressional district encompasses the Sierra National Forest, whose features include the Humphreys Basin. The peak to be named Sky Point is in the center of the Humphreys Basin, near Tomahawk Lake. When Mote was growing up, his family would camp in the region during hunting trips.
Russ Mote, Sky’s father, recalled in an email Monday how family members would be able to see the peak from their campsite, a rallying point. A teacher at Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills, Mote said he was “very humbled” by the congressional gesture.
“Lots of memories with Sky and his brothers, uncle, nieces and nephews in the tent with wind and snow blowing and us playing rummy and Yahtzee and laughing till we cried,” Mote wrote.
Born in Bishop, Calif., on June 6, 1985, Mote enlisted in the Marine Corps following his 2003 graduation from Union Mine High School in El Dorado, where he lettered in track and cross country. He deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.
On Aug. 10, 2012, Mote was serving in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province when, according to his Navy Cross citation, his unit’s tactical operations center came under automatic small arms fire from a “rogue Afghan uniformed policeman” attacking from inside the perimeter.
“Working in an adjacent room and unseen by the attacker, Staff Sergeant Mote could have exited the structure to safety,” the Navy Cross citation stated. “He instead grabbed his M4 rifle and entered the operations room, courageously exposing himself to a hail of gunfire in order to protect his fellow Marines.”
Mote was 27 when he died. Another Marine and California native, Capt. Matthew Manoukian of Los Altos Hills, was also posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism during the Aug. 10, 2012 attack. Manoukian was 29.
McClintock’s bill honoring Mote moved quickly through the House since being introduced in February, notably boosted by the support of the entire California House delegation. Lawmakers discussed it for about 15 minutes on the House floor Monday, with McClintock standing by a large photograph of a smiling, bearded Mote.
A companion measure has not yet been introduced in the Senate.
“There are some times when we can do nothing to repay the sacrifice that our fellow man has done for us,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “But in some small way, we can attempt to show our gratitude, and this bill does that.”
The congressional action, in turn, accelerates what would otherwise be a slower process managed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The board’s policy is that “a person must be deceased at least five years before a commemorative proposal will be considered.”
Last year, through action by the state legislature, a crossing over U.S. Route 50 in Placerville was designated as the Staff Sergeant Sky R. Mote Memorial Overcrossing.