Written by Mike Theberge
My name's Mike and I'm a former Special Forces Engineer Sergeant. I medically retired from the Army in 2014, at 80% disabled. I’m the father of 3 kids ranging in age from 10 to 15 years old, and I'm usually just an all-around happy guy that cracks corny jokes, leaving my kids shaking their heads. Oh...and I look at child pornography. Wait...what?! I'll explain.
Deployment was over. I didn't have to deal with dangerous missions or people that wanted to kill me any chance that they got. Once my body knew that I was home safe and I could let my guard down it shut down on me. I was in tremendous pain, and could barely move. I experienced pain in my back while deployed, and while wearing body armor, but this was even worse. That's when I decided to go to my doc, and have him check me out.
What followed next was being taken away from my team, and being told that I couldn't do what I loved to do anymore. I was forced to medically retire. What would I do for a career? I was approached with a few opportunities making big money doing various things.
One opportunity stuck out, though. And how much money was involved, you ask? It was an unpaid internship, so...no money. It was an opportunity to help sexually exploited children and put away the monsters that exploit them. To me, that is more valuable than money.
After a ten month internship with the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (“H.E.R.O.”) Child Rescue Corps, in conjunction with Homeland Security and my local Sheriff's office, I was brought on full-time with Homeland Security. In the cases that I work, I look at some of the most disturbing things imaginable. There have been times where I've been at home and caught my hands still shaking because of what I had seen earlier that day.
People ask me “How can you do that?” Well, it's not easy. I have certain ways that I handle each situation, and only on rare occasions do I come across things that I have a very hard time handling
Does it take a toll on my mind? Sure it does. Somebody has to do it, though, and it absolutely 100% has to be done.
While it helps the children, and it also makes me feel like an important part of society, which was something I really needed due to depression I suffered from not being able to be a Green Beret anymore. I get to save kids, but something that they'll never know is that they have saved me as well. My mind went dark a few times, and I was filled with hate and anger. I was almost unrecognizable on an emotional level to people that were close to me. Helping these children pulled me out of it.
In order to deal with the distress of extreme cases, I pursue physical outlets. Every day at lunch you'll find me lifting weights. On the weekends you'll catch me going on hikes or other adventures with my family that requires some sort of physical exertion. Sure some of that stuff aggravates my disabilities a little bit, but ultimately it helps my mind heal. By doing these things, opening up to the right people, and compartmentalizing things a bit allows me to keep moving forward, to achieve my new goal of making the world a safer place for children.
One of the greatest rewards of this job are the times that we come across a live child being exploited and my agency and I are able to rescue him or her. We know the child has a long way to recovery, but the direct physical harm is over, and their personal monster will never see the light of day again.
I am really grateful to be able to put my run-and-gun attitude to this new and important mission. There are many battles to fight in this world and when you are no longer able to perform in one way, there is always another on waiting for your drive and determination somewhere else. It was up to me to find it and when presented with the opportunity, I was able to say yes. Once again, I am working protect those that are unable to protect themselves, and try to chip away at the evil in the world.