When disaster strikes and the military swoops in to help rescue the civilians in need, most of the time, the people involved never see each other again. Once in a while though, the military personnel and the people they rescue manage to stay in touch.
That is the case of Master Sergeant Mike Maroney of the U.S. Air Force and LaShay Brown, the little girl that he saved during Hurricane Katrina. When the pararescuer, known as PJ to the family, picked up LaShay and her family from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, LaShay gave her rescuer a hug that he says he’ll never forget.
The heartwarming moment was captured in a photograph that won awards and has circled the globe. Maroney himself, who was battling PTSD, carried the photo with him on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to remind him of the special moment.
Eventually Maroney launched a social media campaign #FindKatrinaGirl in an attempt to find the little girl that had touched his heart. Finally, 10 years after rescuing her, the two were reunited on the set of “The Real” in September 2015.
At that reunion, Maroney told LaShay that she had rescued him more than he had rescued her. But the two didn’t end their renewed bond there. Ever since their reunion, the pararescuer has visited the Brown family in Mississippi regularly. He talks to LaShay on the phone weekly and has even taught her how to swim.
Maroney’s influence on LaShay has been so profound that she joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, a training program at Bay High School in Waveland, Mississippi, that is sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces.
Maroney recently paid another visit to the family so he could escort LaShay to her JROTC ball. “I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” says Maroney.
What do you think of this amazing bond? Share this heartwarming story with your friends and family.