BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - 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.
Then a helicopter pararescue specialist, Maroney's team rescued LaShay's family after they had been stranded for days.
Five years later, Maroney turned to the internet to find LaShay. Shared across multiple social media outlets, people across the world were touched by the photo.
In 2015, the shares, retweets, and reposts paid off in a big way. LaShay and her hero were reunited once again on the TV talk show The Real.
Now that Lashay Brown and Mike Maroney have reunited, their bond is strong. So strong, Brown invited Maroney to escort her to the Junior ROTC ball. Dozens of Bay High JROTC members packed into the Lower Bay Community Center for the annual event, but all eyes were on Lashay and Maroney.
"It would be nobody else that could bring me here, and it would be more special to him," said LaShay.
Maroney added, "I love the family. If not for her hug and smile that day, my life would probably be a lot different."
Since their reunion, the two have gotten close. They even attended a San Antonio Spurs game together recently.
LaShay says Maroney's influence in her life is part of the reason she chose to join JROTC.
"I knew that he was more experienced and he would help me along the way," the high school freshman said.
Maroney and the teen both say they're like one big family. Maroney plans to stay in touch, and he can't wait to see all she's going to accomplish going forward.
"I see great things. She's got a good future, and I'm looking forward to seeing her, President of the United States," said Maroney.