Program trains war veterans to catch child predators

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Veterans who served the United States are now protecting it in a different way.

Orlando is one of 13 cities in a pilot program by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security that will put veterans to work to stop child predators.

Channel 9's Karla Ray found out how soon a war hero will start his new role in Orlando.

A Homeland Security building in Orlando will be the new office to one veteran in the new program.

Army veteran Nathan Cruz is getting a new chance to keep the United States safe.

Cruz will collect evidence from computers of people who have been arrested for crimes like child pornography and exploitation.

After being injured in combat, "My goal is to catch as much predators and save as much children as I can," Cruz said.

After seven weeks of training, Cruz and 16 other veterans graduated from the HERO program, which stands for Human Exploitation Rescue Operative, Friday in Washington.

The trained fighters will now fight back against child predators online.

"As technology evolves, these predators are getting closer and closer to our children. Because now they have a phone in their pocket, they have a computer, they have an iPad," Cruz said.

The veteran will work in Orlando inside a locked office doing computer investigations. The work that goes on is classified and restricted, so Eyewitness News wasn't permitted inside.

Acting Special Agent in Charge Ron Woody said the collaboration with veterans makes sense, because military officers are trained to work through horrific situations many others can't stomach.

"They've seen horrific things and, in the case of child pornography, if you were to see it, it's very horrific," Woody said.

Cruz has a message for anyone targeting children in Orlando or anywhere else.

"Get ready. There's 17 of us that are going to chase you and we're going to find you," Cruz said.

In addition to Orlando, there will be other veterans working in Miami and Tampa.

Work will start in Orlando in just a few weeks.