When Marine Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote called home from Afghanistan, he liked to couch his dangerous plans for the day in innocuous terms.
A 9-year military veteran on this third combat deployment, the 27-year-old from El Dorado knew he might be crossing Taliban territory on an ammunition run, or heading off to blow up a bridge.
"He'd always say, 'I'm going to go on a camping trip,' or 'I'm going to go on a hike,'" said Marcia Mote, an elementary school teacher, who had raised him with his father, Russell, since he was a young boy. "He didn't want to give us any reason to worry."
Mote, who was assigned to the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Pendleton, was killed Aug. 10 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, along with two other Marines, the Department of Defense said.
Reports indicated the attacker was dressed as an Afghan police officer.
Mote was born in Bishop to Russell and Cindy Mote, who divorced when he was a young boy, and he was raised by his father and his new wife, Marcia, in El Dorado.
As a boy he raised pigs for 4-H, camped with his family, and shoed horses. From an early age, he spoke of joining the military, motivated in part by a love of airplanes and the desire to work with them.
Mote graduated Union Mine High School in El Dorado in 2003 and joined the Marines the same year. He deployed first to Iraq as a bomb-disposal specialist, and twice to Afghanistan to work with the Marines special forces.
After his death, people who served with Mote approached his parents to talk about his heroism in battle. In one case, a captain spoke of stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, and of how Mote found his way to him, applying tourniquets and preventing him from bleeding to death.
"The captain said it was so comforting to see Sky working toward him through the minefield," Russell Mote said.
It was a story Mote hadn't told his parents, perhaps in the hope of sparing them worry. "He was just a humble person doing his job, and his job was to protect his team," Russell Mote said. "He was not like a gung-ho military person. You wouldn't know he was in the special forces."
Memorials were held for him in El Dorado Hills and at Camp Pendleton. .
"He was just everybody's best friend, and he would do anything for anybody," Marcia Mote said.
Mote was unmarried and leaves behind four brothers: Timothy, 37, an Army soldier in Fort Polk, Louisiana; Erick, 30, of Bozeman, Montana; Tyson, 28, of San Francisco; and Carson, 17, a high school student in El Dorado Hills.
His father, Russell, teaches 7th grade life science at Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills, and Marcia Mote teaches at William Brooks Elementary School in El Dorado Hills.
Mote received the Purple Heart, a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal, a Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons and three Good Conduct Medals, the Department of Defense said.