Bedford Co. Sheriff Assists Wounded Warriors With Training
Oak Ridge, TN - An elite group of wounded veterans are currently training to go after online sexual predators, with the help of Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown.
The wounded warriors are the first participants in the HERO (Human Exploitation Rescue Operatives) Child-Rescue Corps. They are currently training to work internet crimes against children investigations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN.
The veterans were carefully screened to make sure they're mentally prepared to stop online sexual predators, and find the children who are their victims.
Veterans had already been selected for the first class when organizers learned the federal government would not pay for computers, due to sequestration.
When Sheriff Brown learned the program could be cut he asked the Safe Surfin' Foundation to provide the computers. Sheriff Brown personally delivered 21 new laptops and monitors to the veterans in Oak Ridge earlier this month.
The equipment was paid for with money from Moose International, a major supporter of Safe Surfin'.
ABC 13 traveled back to Oak Ridge with Sheriff Brown to attend a special reception for the veterans at the local Moose Lodge. There, we met Justin Gaertner and Kristy Riles, two of the wounded warriors in the program.
"I've fought against terrorists, Taliban, all that type of stuff," said Gaertner. "I didn't realize how affected our country was with terrorists as well, as far as these complete sickos who are doing unimaginable things to our children."
Gaertner, 24, lost both legs in a blast in Afghanistan in 2010. He's now medically retired from the Marines.
"I'm going from the Marine Corps to the HERO Corps. It's from serving my country to serving my country again," said Gaertner. "I'm not out there looking for bombs, but I'm looking for these guys, which is just as hard because you have to have the knowledge and mindset to know what to look for."
"I wasn't done serving my country yet and this is just a continuation," said Riles.
Riles, 31, broke her back during an airborne jump at Ft. Bragg, NC. As the stepmother of a 13-year-old girl, she hopes to use her training to help families make smart decisions when it comes to internet use.
"I'd love to go speak in schools and anywhere I can, PTA meetings just to get it out there and make parents really aware of the reality," said Riles. "If we could save just one the devastation that abuse causes. It's a lifetime."
"I want to save children. That's the whole point I'm here," said Gaertner. The veteran says his 8-year-old sister is motivation to participate in the program.
The veterans will finish the first round of training in Oak Ridge this week. They'll then head to Northern Virginia for additional training with Homeland Security and ICE.