US Marshals found 39 missing children in Georgia on Thursday through an operation dubbed "Operation Not Forgotten." FOX 6 reported that the Marshals worked with law enforcement to safely rescue 26 children while safely locating the remaining 13.
The Marshals Services stated that 15 of the 39 missing children were victims of sex trafficking, and that the children ranged in age from three to 17 years old.
"I have children. I'm sure many of you do as well. These are not my kids and these are not your kids, but actually they are our kids when it's all said and done," Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, said.
FOX 6 reported that though the mission of locating missing children is not typically within the duties of the US Marshal Service, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act in 2015 gave them the power to work with various law enforcement agencies to recover missing children. A year later, the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit was formed.
"We're really good at what we do. You know, they've called us manhunters. Well, we're not just man hunters anymore," Darby Kirby, chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, noted. "We also help save and rescue children as well."
"There are times when we rescue children that don't want to be rescued, but when you understand the background and where they've come from--growing up in broken homes and you really understand that it's heroic work," Kirby added.
The Marshals Service reported that more than 420,000 children are considered to be missing in the US. Approximately 91 percent of those are believed to have runaway and are in danger.
There were a total of nine adults arrested amid the rescue, including Zachary Bailey, Stanson Causey, Trevontae Shareef, and Kirk Water.
FOX 9 added that Causey was arrested on probation violation charges; Shareef is being charged for interference with custody and willful obstruction of law enforcement; and Water is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved, with Director Washington saying that "we will never stop looking for you. That's [the] message ... There is no more meaningful work that law enforcement does than rescuing children. Our children are not for sale and they are not ever forgotten."