VERO BEACH, Fla. - It was in September of 2009 in Ramadi, Iraq. The Taliban stronghold was becoming a hotbed for sniper shootings - some of which were captured on video.
"The bullet went into my face and then proceeded through the inside of my face exiting out my temple," said former U.S. Army Sgt. Martin May. "We didn't know the violence of the past. We were never told of that," he said.
Sgt. May, who now lives in Vero Beach, was providing a personal security detail for government officials touring reconstruction sites.
"You don't know who's got a gun; almost everybody does," said May. "So, you don't know who's out there to cause you harm."
May certainly had no idea that he would become a target. "You'll see the circle around the guy - that's me," he said pointing to a video playing on his computer screen. He was in the crosshairs of a sniper.
"I came back around to the right and I got popped," he said.
He was also in the focus of a photographer who was secretly recording every second, including the sniper shot to his head.
"I actually knelt down to put my finger in my head in the hole in my head and when I figured out that my finger including the glove fit, I'd been shot," said May.
May said what stood between him and death were his sunglasses.
"The Oakley's actually folded into my face with the bullet which - they're the ones that saved my life - is wearing the protective gear that I was required to wear," he said of his ballistic-resistant eye wear supplied by the military. "Soon as it hit my face, then it went and turned and they went almost like a football that's being kicked through my face."
He lost his left eye, a portion of his skull, his sinuses - even his ability to cry. Sgt. May spent months in the hospital and began researching sniper attacks on U.S. soldiers. He scrutinized videos posted online by suspected terrorist groups; short clips touting the shooting - even the killing - of American service members.
"The higher in rank you are, the more money they get," said May, who saw his own video flash on the video screen. He said he knew it was him right away. "I can stand there and say what truly happened that day," he said.
Life after near-death goes on in Vero Beach with his wife, Wendy and their dog aptly named 'Sniper.'
"I'm a normal guy, just like anybody else," said May. "With all of that, I wouldn't change it because I did my job."
Shortly after Sgt. May was injured - and after that video was published - U.S. and Iraqi security forces arrested a suspected terrorist. The Department of Defense said that person was linked to several sniper shootings in Iraq including that of Sgt. May.
Sgt. May appeared on WPTV NewsChannel 5 a few months ago when his beloved 1965 Fast Back Ford Mustang was stolen from a storage facility in Sebastian. On Thursday, May was notified about an incredible break in the case. The car has been found by police in South Carolina. The suspected thief was arrested. May should have his prized possession back with him in a few days.