Las Vegas won’t be Iraq or Afghanistan for Kevin Leduc, but it will give the Army veteran the opportunity to continue to serve his country.
The 31-year-old former special operations infantryman is one of 17 veterans — many of whom were wounded in the line of duty — who will be deployed across the nation by federal law enforcement agencies to help solve criminal cases involving child pornography and online sexual exploitation.
“It’s my second chance to serve through the government,” he said Friday afternoon from Washington, D.C.
Leduc is part of a new pilot program, the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps, called the HERO Corps. Graduates of the program will work at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations offices across the nation. Their job: to assist special agents using computer forensic skills obtained during intensive training during the past couple of weeks.
Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s western region, described the program as a “win-win” for those involved.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” she said. “And it’s a great opportunity for the veterans.”
The original idea for the program was brought to the table by the National Association to Protect Children, Kice said. They wanted to create a program for veterans no longer able to serve in the military.
After his fourth military deployment — two to Iraq and two to Afghanistan — Leduc, from Cathedral City, Calif., was involved in a car accident that injured his right leg and made him ineligible for military service. The accident occurred while he was in the United States during a training cycle before his fifth deployment.
He has endured nine surgeries since the 2009 crash.
Doctors had to remove bone from his hip and muscle from his back to repair his leg. The young veteran is slowly recovering, but he probably won’t be able to run again.
That’s not stopping him from continuing to serve his country.
His determination to make a difference was witnessed Friday by federal officials, including Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director John Sandweg and U.S. Special Operations Command Director of the Care Coalition Kevin McDonnell. National Association to Protect Children Executive Director Grier Weeks also attended the swearing-in ceremony for the program’s first class, including Leduc, in Washington.
Leduc will assume his new post in Las Vegas on Oct. 30. His soon-to-be boss, Mike Harris, assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Las Vegas, said he is excited to have Leduc join his team.
His help will be valuable, Harris said, and will include retrieving data from computers seized in criminal cases.
“It’s critical,” Harris said. “We don’t have to take a criminal investigator off the street to do this work.”
Leduc was assigned to Las Vegas because he now lives here, not because there is a larger number of child pornography and online sexual exploitation cases in the area.
“It’s a major issue globally,” Harris said. “This problem is not confined to Las Vegas.”
In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 child predators have been arrested by Homeland Security on charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children, according to a program news release. Since 2003, Homeland Security has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes across the country.
“These crimes affect children, and children are the most innocent victims,” Harris said. “You can never have enough law enforcement personnel working these types of cases.”
Harris has two agents trained in computer forensic skills. With Leduc on staff, he might be able to free one up to focus on other projects.
Leduc said he will also use mindsets he developed in the military on his new job.
Some include, “Never give up,” and “Keep working the mission.”
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or firstname.lastname@example.org.