One photograph of a United States Air Force rescuer saving a little girl and receiving a big hug during the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has been seen all over the world and has even won a few awards.
It’s uncommon for military rescuers to reconnect with the people they’ve saved, but luckily for Master Sergeant Mike Maroney, he could reunite with the little girl he saved over ten years ago, LaShay Brown. The little girl gave him a big hug when he saved her and he never forgot that heartwarming moment.
Master Sergeant Maroney was battling PTSD and carried the photograph with him to his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a reminder of that very special moment and what he was fighting for.
When he got back home to the United States, he launched a social media campaign, #FindKatrinaGirl, to try and reconnect with her. Although he first thought that he saved the little girl’s life, it was actually more the other way around.
Luckily, Mark and LaShay found each other on the set of the television program The Real back in 2015.
“You rescued me more than I rescued you,” Mark said to her then.
Ever since the two met again, Mark and LaShay have been very close. Mark taught her how to swim and the two regularly chatted on the phone.
The military officer formed such an inspiration for LaShay that she decided to join JROTC, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. LaShay wants to join the military when she gets older, although she doesn’t know which branch of the military she will join.
“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” Mark says. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”
The Maroney and Brown families will meet each other shortly because LaShay wanted to bring her rescuer to the 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.”
The military officer is forced to retire due to injury but will keep on spreading his knowledge and passion for the military by training young people around the country to join military jobs.
In this heartwarming story, Mark and LaShay truly rescued each other.
“Life in service to the planet is important whether serving in the military or as a teacher, nurse or volunteer. Service makes life that much more appreciated,” Mark concludes.