In the split second before a grenade blast tore through his left foot, Marine Staff Sgt. Bill Murwin locked eyes with his assailant -- a 10-year-old Iraqi boy.
"When I turned to look at him, he was already looking at me and then he took off running," he recalled Friday from his Stagecoach home.
On June 15, the grenade sailed through the driver's door of the Humvee and bounced off Murwin's leg. It landed on the floorboard at his feet.
At first he thought it was one of the dozens of rocks Iraqis were throwing at the Marine vehicle, which was stopped in traffic in the city of Haswa a half-hour south of Bagdhad.
Then Murwin recognized the oval shape of the olive-drab metal. He lifted his feet and yelled, "Grenade!"
"Probably about the same time it detonated," he said.
It had been Murwin's sixth month in Iraq with his reserve Marine unit. He was point man driving a Humvee in a convoy of six Humvees moving north from Al-Hilla to join a task force in Haswa.
Somewhere outside Haswa, the vehicle behind his had blown its engine. Murwin's three-man team was short one member who had returned stateside on emergency leave. The convoy's radios were down.
And there are no rearview mirrors on a Humvee.
So Murwin and his partner Staff Sgt. Eric Throssell had no idea they were alone. They found out when Murwin, his boot shredded from the grenade blast, blood pouring from his foot, rolled out of the Humvee and laid M-4 clips on his chest to prepare for more assaults.
"I thought we were going to have to start shooting people," he said.
Murwin's partner, untouched by the thousands of pellets that shot out of the grenade, ran to his side. He tried in vain to get someone on the radio. As the encroaching crowd became more hostile, Throssell unloaded 90 rounds of ammunition into the sky.
"We were yelling at people to get back and stay away from us," Murwin recalled. "They were still throwing rocks at us, but they responded to the shooting and backed off about a 100 yards. I'd venture to say there was probably 1,000 people in that area."
While trying to keep the crowd at bay, they considered commandeering a civilian Iraqi vehicle and getting out of town. That idea was quickly quashed when they realized they couldn't leave the crippled Humvee with its cache of weapons.
"We decided to stay put and keep as secure as possible," he said.
For 20 minutes, Murwin and Throssell didn't know if they were going to make it out of Haswa without a fight.
The duo knew of the ill-fated Marine unit ambushed on the outskirts of An Nasiriyah in the early days of the war in Iraq. They had hear about the slaughter of an Army maintenance division in which former hostage Pvt. Jessica Lynch was the sole survivor.
But fate was on the Americans' side, Murwin said.
The unit his convoy was going to meet was nearby and heard the grenade blast and Throssell's shooting. They sent a team to reconnoiter.
"Lo and behold," Murwin said, "they find two Americans and a Humvee blown, sitting in the middle of the road."
Marines surrounded Murwin. "They were beautiful."
Murwin said he was quickly scooped up by the Marines and taken the 15 minutes to their position. There a Navy corpsman applied a blood-clotting medication to aid in stopping the still-flowing blood. He was then taken to the Navy Shock Trauma Center in Al-Hilla where surgeons operated to prepare the wound for travel.
From the Baghdad airport, Murwin was flown to Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Two days later, he underwent another surgery.
Surgeons told him he would lose four of his toes, he said. Somehow, they managed to save two.
"I'm happy to have what I've got left," he said. "Somebody was definitely looking out for me."
Four days later, Murwin was checking into the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, where he would stay for 28 days. On June 26 he was awarded the Purple Heart by Commandant of the Marines Lt. Gen. Michael Hagee.
Upon his discharge, he received a $210 bill for his food -- the bill that brought him fame this week and inspired federal legislation to change the military's rules.
Two weeks ago, the Lyon County sheriff's deputy returned to his wife Jill and their home in Stagecoach amid a flurry of media interest. News outlets nationwide want to talk to the man who brought to light the fact that injured troops pay for their hospital food.
Murwin said he isn't sure he's comfortable with the attention the controversy has brought him.
But he's happy to speak for younger service members who might be confronted with a bill that's too large for them to pay.
And he's itching to hit the streets.
"Man, I'm more than ready to go back to work," he said.
The injury shouldn't hinder his ability to patrol, said Capt. Jeff Page of the Lyon County Sheriff's Department.
Murwin has an orthotic insert that helps stabilize his foot in shoes. He believes he'll be able to run again.
He may be discharged from the Marine Corps, where he served 10 years of active duty prior to joining the reserves and the sheriff's department.
"I've spent all my adult life in the Marine Corps," he said. "I've done everything I wanted to do. If I have to leave, that's OK. I've got a whole other life out here."