Worthy effort for a worthy cause

Finally, some news out of New Orleans and Washington, D.C., we can all be proud of.

The Associated Press Sunday wrote about Oskar Zepeda, an Army veteran who, after serving nine tours of duty, has been assigned to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in New Orleans.

The 29-year-old saw his military career cut short when a hand grenade exploded in his vicinity, the AP reported. Zepeda has endured 25 operations since.

At the New Orleans ICE office, Zepeda and 17 other veterans trained in computer forensics are volunteering the next year to seeking a new enemy: child pornography.

The work is the brainstorm of PROTECT, a national association whose mission is to protect children. The AP said the group approached ICE asking that wounded veterans assist in curbing child porn.

“They built their career upon fighting for this country and keeping citizens of this country safe, ICE Special Agent Patrick Redling told the Associated Press. “What better to get somebody already with that mindset into a program where it’s another battlefield, very similar, but you’re keeping our children safe. You’re taking predators off the street.”

The AP article reports 2,331 defendants were charged in federal court last year with producing, distributing or receiving child pornography, according to the Department of Justice.

On a near weekly basis, the New Orleans DOJ office releases information about another arrest across Louisiana. 

Shortly after assuming the role as U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder Jr. told those at the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation in San Jose, Calif., “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we’ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims.

“This is – quite simply – unacceptable.”

The long-term effect of child abuse – and exploiting America’s youth for one’s sexual gratification is unquestionably abuse – is well documented. The physical, social and psychological effects on children subjected to such abuse can leave them feeling ashamed, deep despair, worthlessness and hopelessness.

Similarly, the encounters of wounded veterans returning home only to find promises of support to be little more than hollow words have been documented in national newspapers.

We applaud New Orleans’ ICE field office for recognizing that Zepeda and other wounded vets bring a devotion to the job of protecting our nation’s most vulnerable asset – our children. And to Zepeda and his co-workers, we thank you for putting yourself in harms way so that we can sleep at night knowing our country is safe.

We thank you for your service in Iraq and Afghanistan and here at home. We sleep at night, too, knowing you’ve got watch over our children.