Wounded Vets Get a New Gig: Hunting Child Pornography
Internships give them valuable computer-forensics skills
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2014 2:08 PM CST
In this Dec. 16, 2013, photo, Army Staff Sgt. Oskar Zepeda removes a hard drive from a computer seized as evidence at an ICE field office in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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(Newser) – US veterans are joining a new mission back home: sifting through confiscated computers and hard drives for child pornography, the AP reports. "I love challenges. And I have a family of my own," said Oskar Zepeda, a 29-year-old veteran who jumped at the one-year, unpaid internship. "I feel I'm still serving my country and protecting my family at the same time." He's one of 17 veterans who underwent computer training to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement dig up child-pornography materials on computers taken during police searches.

The biggest challenge may be the pornography itself—the "real dark side of what humankind can do," said one veteran. "I'm talking about young kids, 18-month olds, toddlers." But the veterans say they're able to move on mentally, and are learning computer-forensics skills that law enforcement agencies are seeking. Little wonder: The feds hit 2,331 Americans with child-pornography charges last year, up more than 300 cases from 5 years ago. "My time got cut short in the service," said a veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan. "I wanted to continue serving my country, and this was my way to do that."