When pararescuer Mike Maroney of the U.S. Air Force worked to rescue civilians stranded in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he had no idea that it would be her that would truly rescue him. The lovable 4-year-old named LaShay was stranded with her family, and when they were rescued, she gave him the biggest hug that she possibly could. The picture meant a lot to Maroney, and he ended up carrying it for over a decade.
Maroney was battling with PTSD at the time of LaShay’s rescue, and the photo stayed with him, reminding him of the good he was doing in the world during his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He launched a campaign on social media to #FindKatrinaGirl, and 10 years later, they were reunited on a television show.
The family kept in touch ever since, and when LaShay joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), Maroney couldn’t have been more proud.
Now, LaShay is 14 and lives happily in Mississippi with her family. When she realized that she needed someone to escort her to the Junior ROTC ball, she knew just who to call! Maroney had inspired her to follow her dreams, and he was more than happy to agree.
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.” He said.
The adorable picture has been updated, and people are touched by the way these two perfect strangers changed each others lives.
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