Justin Gaertner, a combat-wounded U.S. Marine, is presently a ICE computer forensics analyst.
This weekend, a tweet shared by a journalist led to what ICE said in a public statement issued Monday afternoon was tantamount to calling Gaertner a Nazi.
ICE has called for an apology and retraction.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Journalist With The New Yorker Tweeted Gaertner’s Tattoo Looked Like an Iron Cross But Later Deleted it & Apologized
Talia Lavin said some veterans told her Gaertner’s “tattoo looked more like a Maltese cross than an Iron Cross (common among white supremacists), so I deleted my tweet so as not to spread misinformation.”
But ICE said the damage had been done with her initial tweet.
“Social media perpetuated by a tweet (by Lavin) …erroneously implied that a tattoo on one of his arms was an iron cross and essentially labeled him a Nazi,” ICE said.
Anti-Defamation League senior research fellow Steve Pitcavage responded to Lavin: “Even if it was an Iron Cross, most IC tattoos are innocuous. I saw nothing about his tattoos that struck me as being related to extremism and I am sorry photos of this disabled veteran whose job is to fight online sexual exploitation of children are going viral in this way.”
Lavin replied, “I’m sorry to have contributed to it — I usually try to be more careful with what I share.”
In its post on Twitter, ICE said, “Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing public apologies …”
There were tweets that identified the tat as a Nazi symbol.
While this story was being written, Lavin set her Twitter to private and these tweets are now unavailable unless one follows Lavin. She also deleted her Facebook.
What appears below is a screen capture of her follow-up apology tweet.
ICE said in its statement that Gaertner indicated the tattoo on his left elbow as seen in the tweet images represents his platoon in Afghanistan called ‘Titan 2.’ He said “the writing on his right arm is the Spartan creed which is about protecting family and children.”
Lavin is a fact-checker at the New Yorker. She is a Harvard graduate, a Fulbright Fellow, has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Jezebel, Vice, The Forward and the Huffington Post. She speaks Hebrew, Russian, and Ukrainian and has translated from those languages for media and academia, according to her LinkedIn and Muck Rack accounts.
2. Gaertner Works For Homeland Security as Forensic Specialist Combating Child Predators
Gaertner became part of the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child Rescue Corps in 2013 and was trained at the Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center for Advanced Computer Forensics training.
After he was trained, he became an intern at the HSI Digital Forensic Unit in Tampa, Florida working on child exploitation cases and “assisting in undercover operations to take down child sexual predators online soliciting children,” according to his profile. His job in “saving kids’ lives through his forensic work” includes analyzing suspect’s devices.
ICE said he helps “solve criminal cases and rescue abused children.”
3. Gaertner & Fellow HERO Program Forensic Analyst For Homeland Security, Gabriel Martinez, Supported Boston Bombing Survivors
“When the bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013, thousands of miles away in Denver, Colorado, Gabe Martinez knew immediately that the lives of those injured would never be the same,” a release about Martinez and Gaertner quotes. “He also knew that for those who suffered life-changing injuries, life would indeed go on.”
Martinez contacted Karen Guenther, founder, president and CEO of the Semper Fi Fund, an organization created by a group of Marine Corps spouses in early 2004 with the aim of providing immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families.
“I asked her was there any way she could get me and some other wounded warriors out to Boston to start visiting some folks,” Martinez said. “After a few days, three other injured veterans and I were on the way to Boston.”
Martinez has made the trip 12 times. Gaertner, traveled with him in July of 2017. Gaertner works with Martinez combating child pornography and trafficking for Homeland Security Investigations cyber unit in Tampa.
4. Gaertner & Martinez Were Injured in the Same Attack in Afghanistan
Justin Gaertner joined the United States Marine Corps in 2007 and served five honorable years in the U.S. Military. Gaertner deployed three times overseas, receiving some of the Marine Corps highest honors being the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Valor and the Purple Heart, according to his A Hero bio.
On November 26, 2010, during his third deployment to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Gaertner’s platoon was ambushed by the Taliban, disabling one of the lead vehicles. Gaertner was an IED sweeper for his route clearance platoon and swept up to the disabled vehicle to extract a wounded Marine, the bio reads.
Gaertner and another IED sweeper, his best friend” Martinez, began sweeping for secondary explosive devices when Martinez triggered an IED causing the loss of both of his legs, it’s explained.
Gaertner then started sweeping for “tertiary IED’s to establish a Helicopter Landing Zone to evacuate the injured Marines. He triggered a third IED during this sweep, causing the loss of his legs and other life threatening injuries,” his bio quotes
5. Gaertner Spent 18 Months Recovering & Learning How to Walk With Prosthetic Legs & Later Became a Champion Adaptive Athlete
After a year and a half of recovery and learning how to walk with prosthetic legs, Gaertner took things a huge step further by becoming an adaptive athlete and participating in sports like hand cycling, wheelchair basketball, shot-put, discus, and track racing chair. He completed marathons and long-distance cycling races globally and earned gold at the National Veteran Wheelchair Games in 2013.
After medically retiring, the Marine moved to Tampa and initially worked as an intern at the Special Operations Command Care Coalition at MacDill AFB. assisting and advocating for wounded warriors to help them with medical needs and in transitioning back into civilian life.