DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado man who paid a very high price for his country in combat and is now a hero again. He’s part of a program called H-E-R-O Human Exploitation Rescue Operative — or HERO.

It’s part of the National Association to Protect Children and Department of Homeland Security effort to go after child predators.

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Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Marine Sgt. Gabriel Martinez of Elizabeth lost his legs while serving his country. It happened in Afghanistan while clearing explosive devices.

“After I was wounded I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know if I would be able to walk again,” Martinez told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

The cheers of “welcome home” eventually faded and now a retired Martinez faced the future — what to do with his life. It seemed fitting a hero on one battlefield would move to another. The enemy is now child predators.

David Thompson is the Special Agent in Charge of the Denver office of Homeland Security Investigations.

“They are going after some of the most heinous child sexual predators out there,” Thompson said. “That is a testament at Veterans Day of the caliber and character of these men and women.”

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

The job of the war-hardened veterans is to analyze data from hard drives, phones and other evidence seized from suspected child pornographers and others.

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Martinez welcomes his new role.

“I have a 3-year-old daughter at home and there’s nothing worse than to imagine anything happening to my daughter,” he said.

It’s part of an international operation that has rescued thousands of exploited of children.

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Sgt. Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

“It really fuels that fire I have inside to make it stop, and if I can make it stop, then I need to be there,” Martinez said.

From a war zone to a hospital, Martinez is back on his feet — and now the battlefield is cyberspace.

LINKS: H-E-R-O Human Exploitation Rescue Operative | National Association to Protect Children

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CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.