- Cullman, Alabama


January 7, 2014

Vets wage war on predators

CULLMAN — Many of the returning wounded veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are young men and women, in their 20s and early 30s.

Because of severe injuries these veterans can no longer meet the physical requirements required in the armed services. But the sense of service and duty remains strong in many of these veterans.

A select group of the wounded veterans are finding a new way to serve their country through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices. Their mission is to help eradicate child predators.

The veterans are serving as volunteers for one-year stints, and many of them find the purpose of the new jobs far outweighing financial concerns.

Federal officials say a children’s lobbying group, PROTECT, pitched the idea of incorporating wounded veterans in the fight against child pornography. ICE Special Agent Patrick Redling said the agency, where veterans account for 30 percent of the workforce, ran with the idea. The agency relied on the U.S. Special Operations Command to get the word out to wounded service members transitioning out of the military or already separated. The veterans were given about 11 weeks of intensive computer and legal training before being assigned to an ICE field office.

Even though they’re not getting paid by ICE, the majority of those on the team are receiving disability compensation. Many also get a monthly stipend from the Department of Veterans Affairs for educational expenses.

The veterans are also gaining valuable experience in computer forensics which is in high demand in the law enforcement profession.

In the meantime, the effort to slow down child predatory practices has gained some determined, enthusiastic recruits. The rise of child predators in recent years through use of the internet has caused tremendous challenge for law enforcement agencies. Finding a group of service-oriented volunteers such as returning veterans to lend a hand in the fight is a welcome addition to law enforcement efforts.


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