An Air Force pararescue jumper was reunited once again with the girl he helped rescue during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This time, the airmen accompanied the young woman to her own JROTC ball on Saturday.
A photograph of the Air Force enlistee hugging the 3 year-old girl in 2005 became an iconic image in the military and in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane. Master Sgt. Mike Maroney was seen in the image holding up and hugging LaShay Brown after rescuing her and her family from their flooded home.
In 2015, Maroney launched a #FindKatrinaGirl social media campaign in an effort to find the girl that he helped rescue.
After several months, the two reunited in September on TV talk show “The REAL”.
“Your hug, it helped me through hard days, and rough days,”Maroney told Brown during their reunion. “You rescued me more than I rescued you.”
Maroney carried the photograph of him hugging Lashay on his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan while suffering from PTSD.
LaShay told People magazine she was inspired by Maroney to join her high school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
“It was very interesting and a challenge, and because I had never done it before,” she told People. “I knew if I joined I would have help from Mike along the way if I needed it, or was confused about anything.”
Lashay, now 14, plans to join the military but doesn’t know which one she wants to be a part of yet.
Lashay invited Maroney to her JROTC ball, to which Maroney accepted.
“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,” Maroney said.