For Russ Mote and his family, the grief comes in waves as they remember the son and brother who was killed a week ago while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan.
The comfort comes as they remember Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote's characteristic smile and his conviction that the work he and his team were doing in an Afghan village in Helmand province was making a difference.
They were further comforted Thursday by the outpouring of support from El Dorado County residents and others who waved flags from Highway 50 overpasses and lined streets in El Dorado Hills as a motorcade bearing the young Marine's body passed en route from McClellan Air Park to Green Valley Mortuary.
Sky Mote, 27, and two other members of the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion from Camp Pendleton Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian, 29, of Los Altos Hills and Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, of Herndon, Va. were killed Aug. 10.
Initial reports were that the three were shot by an Afghan police officer after sharing a meal with the man. Russ Mote said he is waiting to hear the story from members of his son's unit.
"Sky always had a smile on his face. I've only seen three pictures where he wasn't smiling," Mote said, and those were official Corps photos in which the Marine was supposed to look somber.
Sky Mote joined the Marines nine years ago, after graduating from Union Mine High School in his hometown of El Dorado. He had attended Silva Valley Elementary and Rolling Hills Middle schools in El Dorado Hills, where crowds waited in the late afternoon heat for the motorcade to pass.
Russ Mote teaches at Rolling Hills Middle School and his wife, Marcia, at William Brooks Elementary in El Dorado Hills. Russ Mote said schools along the motorcade route postponed back-to-school events and local soccer teams canceled practices to accommodate the memorial procession.
As he waited for the motorcade, fellow Marine Sean Smothers signed a professionally designed banner featuring a photo of Sky Mote and his medals against the backdrop of an American flag. Smothers said he did not know Mote but had worked across the street from where Mote worked at Camp Pendleton.
"When it's a Marine, it's a Marine," Smothers said. "We've got to take care of our own."
Luke Peterson and Liam Oliver, both 9 years old, held either end of a large American flag. Luke's mother, Alycia Peterson, said Marcia Mote had been her daughter's teacher.
"They're just lovely people," she said.
His son would have been gratified by the outpouring of community support, Russ Mote said.
Sky Mote was born in Bishop and loved the outdoors. He returned to the area every year to camp, hike and ride horses. His Facebook page includes photos of him hiking and rock climbing.
As a youth, he was involved in high school sports and was active in the 4-H Club.
Russ Mote said his son was enthusiastic about the Marines and always enjoyed working as part of small teams.
Sky Mote trained to be a flight navigator, but became a bulk fuel specialist when the Marines phased out airplanes requiring navigators, his father said, and later an explosive ordnance disposal technician.
He joined the Marine Corps Special Operations Command in 2009 and had been in Afghanistan since May.
He previously served in Iraq, and at one time he and his older brother, Tim, currently a sergeant in the Army, were deployed at the same time.
Tim accompanied his brother's body on the flight from Dover Air Force Base to McClellan.
Sky Mote was devoted to his family, particularly his four brothers.
"His brothers were his priority," Russ Mote said.