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It is a very rare friendship…formed more than a decade after a United States airman rescued a little girl from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
This weekend he drove from his station in San Antonio California to Hancock County to attend her junior military ball.

News 25’s Gina Tomlinson takes us to their reunion.

Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force
Gina Tomlinson News 25 @wxxvgina
Lashay Brown Waveland Resident

To understand how very special this reunion is…you have to know their story.
Michael Maroney was a para rescue jumper, flying over New Orleans picking up survivors in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ..When he saw a little girl standing in pink way down below

“And when she smiled at me I was like woah! Because I was having a horrible day but I mean, she was having a worst day but she was still smiling!”
– Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force

Then 3-year-old Lashay Brown had been stuck for three days without food or water before Michael pulled her and family members up to safety..

“When I got her mom up, her mom was scared. Lashay rubs her mom’s back and says it’s ok mom, we’re safe now. And she wasn’t just talking to her mom she was talking to me.”
– Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force

Michael has a deep military background and the US Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Has also battled PTSD.
One moment with Lashay, Michael says changed his life.
And somebody just happened to take a photo of it.

“And 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.”
– Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force

And that good feeling stuck

“I wanted to know how it turned out so I started looking for them and found nothing.”
– Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force

“Michael searched for the little girl in this picture for 9 years until he found her. They reunited just a month after the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.”
– Gina Tomlinson News 25 @wxxvgina

“We met on the TV show The Real. I really seen him, and it was true and I started crying..”
– Lashay Brown Waveland Resident

Lashay, now fourteen has kept in close touch with her rescuer. Michael drove with his family from san Antnio to accompany Lashay to her junior ROTC ball in Waveland Saturday.
Lashay says Michael’s influence in her life has inspired her to want to join the military.

“He helped me a lot with physical training and stuff; he gives me tips on how to keep running because we do a lot of PT and all that. He means a lot to me. He’s more like a family member than a friend”
– Lashay Brown Waveland Resident

At the ball, Michael gave a speech and received a special honor…but his greatest award…the little girl’s hug and friendship that blossomed out of devastation.

“If she needed a heart or a lung I would give that to her. I mean that’s how important her, her hug, her family is to me.”
– Master Sgt. Michael Maroney United States Air Force

In Waveland Gina Tomlinson News 25.

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