Soldier Exposed To Sarin Reflects On His Experience After Syria Attack In 2004, Michael Yandell was a U.S. Army bomb tech during Operation Iraqi Freedom when he and his partner were exposed to sarin. Almost 13 years later, he talks about the experience with his wife.
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One Soldier's Lasting Memories Of Exposure To Sarin Gas

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One Soldier's Lasting Memories Of Exposure To Sarin Gas

One Soldier's Lasting Memories Of Exposure To Sarin Gas

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday, when we hear conversations from StoryCorps. Often in those interviews, people revisit the moments that shaped their lives. For Michael Yandell, the moment came one morning in 2004. He was 19, serving in the United States Army as a bomb disposal technician in Iraq, when he was exposed to the nerve agent sarin, the same gas that was used in an attack in Syria earlier this month, it is believed. Michael's is one of the first documented cases of an American soldier being exposed to sarin on the battlefield. He recently came to StoryCorps with his wife Amy to remember that day.

MICHAEL YANDELL: We got a call very early in the morning. There had been an explosion, and there was a old, rusted projectile in the middle of the road. I picked it up, put it in the truck. I'm driving, and my team leader's beside me. And we both had these crushing headaches. And, you know, we're feeling disoriented, feeling confused even. When we get back to the camp, I remember I was looking in this mirror and I couldn't see the pupils in my eyes, the calling card of nerve agent exposure. And they told us to go to the clinic immediately. We stripped down, and they helped us shower because we were both having a hard time seeing and a hard time really just using our faculties. You know, I had a lot of fear and anxiety. But I didn't want to give voice to those fears because you don't want to be unfit to serve. And to be a good soldier, I needed to be in control. And what the sarin proved to me is that I had no control, and that's a hard truth to come to terms with.

How do you feel about me talking about it?

AMY YANDELL: Well, as we both know, you don't talk about this a lot. But I feel, every day, a wound in you. And not knowing how to fix it, not being your confidant when it comes to these things is hard because I love you, and I want to help. And I'm sorry this happened to you.

M. YANDELL: Thank you. But in the scheme of things, I was very fortunate compared to many other people. These weapons exist. They're manufactured, used. Those decisions, they're made by people that don't ever encounter the reality. And the people that do encounter it - men and women and children - they don't have any say.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "JOHN STOCKTON SLOW DRAG")

INSKEEP: Michael and Amy Michael Yandell at StoryCorps in Atlanta. Michael received a Purple Heart for his injuries and is now a doctoral candidate in theology at Emory University. Their interview will be archived in the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "JOHN STOCKTON SLOW DRAG")

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