Iconic 'Katrina Girl' Will Bring The Vet Who Rescued Her 12 Years Ago To Her Junior ROTC Ball

March 21, 2017

When pararescuer Mike Maroney of the U.S. Air Force picked up LaShay and her family from the waters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the little girl gave her rescuer a big hug that he never forgot.

Katrina girl hug takes rescuer to dance

Maroney, who was battling PTSD at the time of LaShay's rescue, carried the photo with him on difficult deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, to remind him of that special moment.

Eventually, he tried to find the little girl who changed his life, even launching a #FindKatrinaGirl social media campaign.

Finally, 10 years after the storm, the two were reunited on the set of a TV show.

Upon their reunion, Maroney told LaShay, "You rescued me more than I rescued you."

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Photo Credit: Veronica Pierce

Since that day, the former pararescuer has visited the Brown family in Mississippi, even teaching LaShay how to swim, and has spoken to LaShay on the phone weekly.

Maroney's encouragement has been so important to LaShay that she decided to join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps or (JROTC), a pre-training program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces at Bay High School in Waveland, Mississippi.

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This Saturday, LaShay, 14, will bring Maroney to her Junior ROTC ball.

"I'm going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family," Maroney told People. "They mean as much to me as my own."

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