PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Eleven years ago this month, this hug between rescuer and rescuee went viral. In September 2005, Master Sgt. Mike Maroney, pararescueman, was caught on camera by an Air Force photographer hugging this adorable 3-year-old girl with pigtails just after he rescued her, along with her family, from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Last year, after a decade, Maroney learned the whereabouts and identity of that little girl whose hug meant so much to him "after those tough times." A high school student helped him launch a campaign to find that little girl using #FindKatrinaGirl on various social media platforms. In February 2015, the Air Force Times reported it and it was picked up by hundreds of news outlets.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Maroney had just returned from an overseas deployment to Afghanistan and after several months rescuing injured troops from the battlefield, he was back rescuing hurricane victims from the floodwaters, without missing a beat. She was one of those victims who showed her appreciation with a hug that became an iconic image of the rescue efforts from the hurricane-ravaged town.
Maroney was part of a massive rescue effort to aid the victims of the Hurricane's aftermath. The hug was just what he needed at the time and the photo brought him a piece of mind.
The little girl is now 14-years-old and her name is LeShay Brown. She lives with her family in Waveland, Mississipi. Maroney and LeShay finally reunited in New Orleans last year at this time on a Fox talk show in front of live audience and they were featured on the front page of People magazine.