It takes more than physical fitness and mental acuity to become an adept burn agent–there’s a lot of heart involved too. If Bortz, our featured Freedom Fighter, had to explain what makes a capable agent, he’d say it takes a strong stomach, good acting skills and a proper mindset.
Bortz, a veteran who spent 30 years as a U.S. Marine before becoming a burn agent, says that the atrocities of war and the exploitation of children are very different, but despite his military experience, the things he sees as a burn agent rescuing children shake him to the core.
Bortz couldn’t hold back tears as he recalled one gut-wrenching case in which a girl was forced to go to great lengths to sell herself. He became emotional as he remembered how he maintained cover during their interaction by pretending to be a predator, even as his heart broke for the child and his anger burned for those exploiting her. Situations like these reinforce his conviction that having a trustworthy confidant who has walked the same ravaged path in his corner to confide in is vital to his ability to continue this rescue work.
After regaining his composure, Bortz pointed out that this war on the sexual exploitation of children is more extensive than most can imagine:
This is a business; this is an industry. This is vast, powerful…motivated by the love of money, and it is very strong. So do not be deceived. This is an industry that has a purpose, and it does not care about anything except itself.
Nevertheless, no matter how daunting this work can be, Bortz and his fellow agents press forward, one girl at a time. “You just continue to stay focused. You stay on the objective, the intent: ‘I’m here for you. You just don’t know it yet,’” he said.
Though he was stricken with cancer and delayed for two years due to pandemic travel restrictions, Bortz insisted on returning to the Philippines to help our agents conduct surveillance on traffickers.
Though he’s a retired Marine, volunteering for this kind of work means he must don a different, despicable persona. A clear vision in mind is imperative, as grim as the task may be. “It’s difficult, but like anything else, what’s the intent? The intent is to rescue. You might look like the perp, but you know in your mind you have a goal,” he said.
That goal is simple: pulling girls and boys out of the darkness and into the light.
Still, having accountability to other Destiny Rescue agents and law enforcement agencies helps Bortz stay hyper-vigilant and not to cross any lines that could jeopardise his ethics and morals or break the law.
One thing Bortz fears above all else is leaving a child in the hands of an abuser. Whether that means he would be pulled out during an operation or just not get to them in time, Bortz is sickened by the thought. “But you have to continue with the mission to obtain and maintain the evidence to put the perps away,” he said.
Thankfully, that particular fear has never been realised.
The rewards reaped from this agonising work surpass any material gains this world offers. As difficult as the work is, rescuing also helps heal the wounds it opens. The unparalleled peace and stillness it imparts overshadows the horrors of child exploitation and restores the agent anew—it readies them for the next battle.
Bortz has some advice for those who want to volunteer with Destiny Rescue: abandon expectations. Realise that this is not exciting work but dangerous and poignant work. “Be ready to lose yourself for the purpose and the cause,” he said.
When asked if he would like to share a message with Destiny Rescue employees he’s already worked alongside and those he has yet to meet, Bortz replied with tears in his eyes:
I have two words: thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. I see the things that you give up. Those who are coming here–the volunteers leaving everything behind to live abroad for the sake of rescue and setting people free. They’re not here for the money, and they’re not here for the position, they’re here to rescue… Thank you for making me a better rescuer as a whole. And to the family that I have here—I say thank you and God bless you… the DNA of the whole of Destiny Rescue, it’s family-oriented. It is such a joy to come here and to be part of this family.
Bortz would like to appeal to each and every person out there:
Those of you out there, within earshot, (or) reading or whatever it may be, I have one word to say: HELP. Please help in our battle against this industry motivated by money. And it is vast when you start to take a look at it. So, I reach out to those out there to say, HELP, CONTRIBUTE and DONATE in any means that you can in order….to continue to combat this evil.
To answer his call, donate today via the form below. For other ways to get involved, learn how you and your community can join the fight against the trafficking and exploitation of children around the world.