Wounded Veterans Tracking Down Child Pornographers

TAMPA, Fla. – J. Gaernter enlisted in the Marine Corps with the intention of a long military career, but during his third deployment in Afghanistan, his plans were derailed. “I stepped on an IED and lost my legs,” said Gaertner.

While Gaertner’s career as a combat Marine came to a screeching halt the day his legs were amputated, fortunately the doctors were able to save his life. After the ordeal, he was asked if he’d be interested in joining a new program called H.E.R.O. Corps.

When Gaertner was first approached about the program, he wasn’t interested. They talked to him about child pornography and told him he’d be going after pedophiles. He initially turned them down because he didn’t want to see the disturbing images. He said that he hadn’t heard of it until that point.

H.E.R.O. Corps stands for Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child-Rescue Corps. The program was developed by Homeland Security Investigations, a subdivision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under the program, wounded combat veterans from the Armed Services participate in a one-year-long unpaid internship, over which time they learn to track down pedophiles and those who possess, manufacture and distribute child pornography.

Gaertner said that in his eyes, these individuals are terrorists, who he was pretty good at hunting down overseas. He told NBC 8 that “it’s much the same way how you hunted someone overseas is the same way we do it here.”

As an intern of H.E.R.O. Corps, the wounded combat veteran receives rigorous training on tracking child pornographers down.

According to Gaertner, everything is traced through the offenders’ devices, computers, and through the Internet. These individuals think that they can get away with it, but they can’t because eventually, they’re going to get caught, he said.

J. Turner, a wounded Army veteran, who is also training with H.E.R.O. Corps said that it was difficult for him when he got injured, but his involvement in the program has helped him.

Turner said that putting somebody away and having those handcuffs around them, and knowing they’re going away for a long time, makes all the feelings go away because he knows that all of the hard work he put in was fulfilled.

While there are various offenses related to child pornography, under Sec. 847.0137 of the Florida Statutes, the act of “transmitting” child pornography is felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000.

Accused of child pornography or another sexually-motivated crime? Contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for a free consultation.