LaShay Brown became known as the “Katrina girl” for a Sept. 6, 2005, photo of her smiling as she hugged the neck of Master Sgt. Mike Maroney following Hurricane Katrina. Master Sergeant Maroney is the pararescue specialist that pulled LaShay and her family to safety after they had spent three days stranded on the roof of their home. But little did 3-year-old Lashay know, she had rescued MSgt. Maroney that day as well with her smile and her embrace.
“And when she smiled at me I was like ‘Whoa!’ Because I was having a horrible day but I mean, she was having a worst day but she was still smiling!” Maroney said.
“She wraps me up in this hug and all my pain went away. My heart didn’t hurt. My head didn’t hurt. Nothing hurt and it felt good.”
10 years after the Katrina devastation the two met on ‘The Real’ TV show and ever since then the two have kept in touch. Inspired by her rescuer, LaShay joined JROTC and when it the military ball came around there was no one better she could think of to invite than MSgt. Maroney.