Aformer Los Altos Hills resident is one of two U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion (MSOB) posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions while deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.
The families of St. Francis graduate Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian and Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote of El Dorado were scheduled to receive the awards Saturday during a ceremony at 1st MSOB Headquarters at Camp Pendleton.
Mote and Manoukian, who also served in Iraq, were assigned to Marine Special Operations Team 8133 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when they came under intense enemy fire Aug. 10, 2012, from an Afghan uniformed police officer attacking from inside the perimeter of their tactical operations center.
According to reports, Manoukian, the team commander, ordered his Marines to maneuver to safety as he engaged the enemy. Manoukian courageously drew heavy fire on himself until he fell mortally wounded.
Mote, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, also was killed while drawing fire away from his fellow Marines, saving their lives.
Manoukian’s father, Socrates “Pete” Manoukian, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge, said he received confirmation of the Navy Cross honor a few weeks ago.
“It’s all so overwhelming,” he said. “Matt never said much about what he was doing in the Marine Corps.”
Pete, a Los Altos Hills resident, said he learned only after Matt was killed about the extent of his son’s service on behalf of the Iraqis and Afghans – work that included restoring order, providing safety for civilians, training local security forces and rebuilding infrastructure. Matt made friends with the locals and learned Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan.
Pete heard a story about his son watching children play soccer in an area made safe by the Marines. The person next to Matt said, “You guys did this.”
“He did what he loved to do,” Pete said. “I miss him every day – we’re very proud of him.”
Major Gen. Mark A. Clark, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was scheduled to present the awards.
The Navy Cross is the second-highest valor award, second to the Medal of Honor, and must be approved by the Secretary of the Navy before being awarded. Manoukian and Mote became the third and fourth Marines in the Special Operations Command’s seven-year history to receive the Navy Cross, and the 15th and 16th Marines in Marine Corps history to receive the distinction.
For Matt, the honor is the latest in a long line of accolades, including two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and a Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star.
“Capt. Matthew Patrick Manoukian will never be forgotten, and his sacrifice will live on forever in the hearts of all who cherish freedom,” the Manoukian family said in a statement.
For more information on Matt’s life, visit the family’s website tribute at captainmattmanoukian.com.