Published: May 05, 2014 5:43 PM EDT
Updated: May 06, 2014 10:38 AM EDT

TAMPA, Fla.- Sweeping for mines in Afghanistan three years ago, Marine Corporal Justin Gaertner almost lost his life, stepping on an IED.

Desspite losing his legs and part of his left arm, Gaertner wasn't ready to give up.

"I just wanted to find my way in to keep serving my country." 

Gaertner is now doing just that.
Serving his country, keeping Americans safe, this time from child pornographers.

"It's still a terrorist, it's still someone corrupting this country," said Gaertner.

A25 year old native of Tampa, Gaertner is currently a "hero," which now *also means human exploitation rescue operative.

The national HERO program aims to train wounded, ill and injured military members in high tech computer forensics so they can keep serving, and keep fighting the bad guys.

"No bigger reward, or anything better, than saving a kid's life," said Gaertner. 

Gaertner is one of 17 unpaid interns working alongside Homeland Security Agents.

Kevin Power, a senior special agent with HSI working out of Tampa, says HERO interns are making a big difference in the war on child pornography.

"We were being overwhelmed. We had so many," said Power.

Power says the wounded warriors do what many agents can't or won't, handling the most disgusting evidence you can imagine.

"We are talking about infants, toddlers, being raped," said Gaertner.

"It's not little suzy at the beach, and she's in her bathing suit. It's the little baby being raped," said Power.

It's a problem Power says is only getting worse.

In 2013, more than two thousand people were arrested by special agents, more than 900 children rescued.
That's across the world.

WINK news broke down the numbers locally, finding that since 2011, 25 people here in the SWFL region were arrested federally.

In Lee County, deputies have made 10 arrests since 2012, FDLE making an additional 7.

Charlotte County has 5 arrests, and Collier has 14.

That's more than 60 separate arrests.

But it's the predators they haven't caught, that keep agents up at night.

"That's the scary part. this is a crime that has no profile, could be a doctor, little brother, sister, mom or uncle," said Nathan Cruz.

Nathan Cruz, another veteran and hero, says this is the hardest battle he's ever had to fight.

"Heros," like Cruz and Gaertner, must find, retrieve and catalog pornographic images/videos from computers, flash drives, hard drives and other devices.

Delivering the evidence prosecutors need, to put these adults away for good.

"We can find everything, we can find deleted files, find encrypted files, everything that is out there," said Gaertner.

Despite their hard work, "Operations I've done, taken down 35 guys in 4 days," said Gaertner.

The enemy continues to grow.

"There's hundreds of thousands of child porn sites and it doesn't matter how many his takes down, they'll be 5 more the next day," said Gaertner.

But so do the heroes.

Sam Smink asked Gaertner, "Do you think it's a battle you can win?"

He said, "that we can win. Oh we are winning it right now, we win everyday."

Many of this year's graduates will be placed in agencies across the United States, and 23 more will return next year.
Gaertner was offered a job in Tampa, we will keep you updated on Cruz.
The intern program is currently funded by the National Association to Protect Children.