Joel Healy joined the Army when he was 17 years old to help pay for college. He never imagined that he would witness the detonation of more than 20 atomic bombs.

Joel was a private first class when he was assigned to Camp Desert Rock, north of Las Vegas in 1957.

That’s where he took part in Operation Plumbbob, one of the largest nuclear tests series ever conducted on U.S. soil.

At StoryCorps, Joel told his daughter, Kelli Healy Salazar, about his time at the Nevada test site.

It’s hard to determine just how many became ill because they were present at these tests, but Joel and thousands of others have received compensation from the federal government as part of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990.

Originally aired October 12, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.