In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal there has been renewed media attention being given to the numerous reports of systemic Hollywood pedophilia as alleged by Corey Feldman, Todd Bridges, Elijah Wood and many, many others.
Since 2013 one organization has aimed to fight back against pedophiles across the United States: the HERO -- Human Exploitation Rescue Operative – program gives veterans injured, ill or wounded in the line of duty, training in computer forensics, to work with federal agents in fighting back against pedophiles who use the internet to sexually exploit children.
The Hero Child Rescue Corps is a government-funded project that trains the veterans to hunt child predators -- developed by the National Association to Protect Children (Protect), and in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the veterans receive 11 weeks of intensive training and 10 months of on-the-ground experience, CNN reports.
The veterans work in unison with law enforcement, serving as computer forensic analysts as part of a year-long unpaid internship. After completing their training, the vets are placed in Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) field offices across the US.
In addition to helping thousands of victimized children, the groups mission is also to help the veterans find a new purpose and way of giving back to the community and country.
J. Christian, CEO of Protect, is himself a veteran – who served as an Army Ranger until his spine was fractured during a mission in Afghanistan.
“A lot of the individuals who come into the HERO Corps are truly individuals who have lost their mission on the battlefield,” Christian said.
“In one second [the veteran's] entire life changed. When that happens, I know from personal experience, you start to wonder, what can I now do? And once you find this opportunity, you know it's truly your opportunity to step back into that role,” Christian told CNN.
“You see groups of children being abused at levels the average American cannot fathom,” Christian explained. “If you imagine an infant getting gagged and bound tortured, it's not a rare occurrence to come across.”
According to a CNN report:
According to Christian, the U.S. is the largest producer of child pornography in the world. He also points to research showing the U.S. is home to the most commercial child porn websites.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says its Victim Identification Program, which aids law enforcement in efforts to locate and rescue child victims, has reviewed more than 158 million images and videos, since 1998.
In 2008, an ICAC Task Force network identified over 300,000 unique computers engaged in trafficking child pornography. A study by the University of New Hampshire found that 55 percent of those who possess or trade child pornography, are hands-on offenders.
With such overwhelming figures, it means that the wounded veterans have a chance to find a new mission in the much needed to field of forensic analysis of digital evidence necessary to convict child porn traffickers and, potentially, active child abusers.
There are more than 747,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S., with as many as 100,000 who are not complying with their judicial supervision or missing, according to The Demand Project, with the group reporting that child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, with a 2,500 percent increase in arrests over the past decade
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One HERO trainee, Army Sgt. Tom Block, who was the Army Times Soldier of the year in 2014 for courage displayed on the battlefield, said that the ability to “go after the bad guys again” and go after the “bullies” again gave him a renewed sense of purpose.
"It's an opportunity for me to go after bad guys again. The complete scope of the crime is a lot more than people probably think," he told CNN.
Sgt. Block's life was forever changed on October 6, 2013, when he and fellow Rangers embarked on a direct-action raid to root out insurgent bombers, according to CNN.
Block reportedly spotted a couple in a courtyard and ordered the duo to put their hands up. One of the insurgents detonated an explosive strapped to her body.
"From what I'm told the explosion leveled some of the house. The only thing that separated me [from the suicide bomber] was the guy I was holding onto. And all of his bones ended up in my American flag that was wrapped around my plates and melted. And I think I got a chunk of him in my cheek, because I have shrapnel lodged in there," Block said.
Doctors were able to save the vision in Block's left eye, but unable to save his right eye – so now he wears a prosthetic eye bearing the Captain America shield. Sgt.
"He doesn't like bullies. And neither do I," Block said.
While admitting that it can be hard to look in the mirror some days, Block says making someone else’s life better gives meaning to his life after-the-fact.
"I'll be honest, looking in the mirror can be tough sometimes," says Block. "But you keep your faith, you keep your confidence, and you go out there and try to make somebody else's life better. It's what you do after-the-fact, and I think I'm trying to do a pretty damn good job."
Finding meaning in helping others is a lesson we should all take to heart!
The Hero Corps plans to put 200 of its operatives into US law enforcement agencies by 2018.
Applications for new operatives can be made on the official Hero website.
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Take a look at a video describing the HEROs: