BAKERSFIELD, CA - The family of a local veteran who served three tours of duty in Iraq is awaiting the results of his autopsy after crews recovered his body from Lake Isabella, three days after he went missing. The sheriff's department is in the midst of a drowning death investigation and an autopsy is scheduled Friday to determine how the former marine died while kayaking at Lake Isabella.
Meanwhile, his family celebrated what would've been his 30th birthday Thursday by remembering good times with him. Family members gathered at Michael May's foster parents' home to remember the local veteran. This, just hours after the coroner identified May's body, pulled from Lake Isabella after he went missing on Father's Day.
May's foster mother Rosaura Hernandez said, "We got peace, in the sense that if he was dead, we wanted to know. If he was alive, we wanted to know because it was four days of agony and so that was very hard."
Hernandez, who raised him since he was 12 years old, says the former marine was an excellent swimmer and familiar with Lake Isabella. She says she believes he drowned kayaking while his wife and two infant children were on the shore. She says May wasn't wearing pants when his body was recovered, leading her to believe he struggled to get out of the kayak.
Hernandez said, "That skirt seals a hole that if it flips, then you can get back up. But if it's not then it would be impossible to get back up. That's what we're assuming happened, that he flipped and he couldn't get back up."
Hernandez says her son was happy the last time she saw him, less than a week before he went missing. She says he talked about plans and what he was going to do after recently becoming unemployed.
"He was helping me, he was talking to me about what his plans were. He said he got laid off from his job. I found out that he just walked away. That was him, if he saw something he couldn't handle, he walked away," she said.
She says May had a difficult time transitioning back into life at home, after being deployed.
"Somebody from the military called me, wanting to know if he was depressed, was he working, was he doing anything positive in his life because they were worried about him. I said no, he's doing okay. I'm not saying that he's perfect, but he hasn't shown any signs of really serious depression."
As they remember him on his 30th birthday, they're focusing on the happier times.
"I want Michael to be remembered as happy, a good citizen, willing to do anything to help anybody, and he was willing to fight for his country to the end," said Hernandez.
Sheriff's department officials say the autopsy results will be released Friday.