The Browns Were Stranded


LeShay Brown and her family were ones that chose to stay in their home. Pararescue specialist Mike Maroney was patrolling above when he noticed the Browns pleading for help to escape the submerged city. Maroney rescued the Brown family. However, neither the Browns nor Maroney could predict what would happen next.

Maroney Saved Many

Master Sgt. Mike Maroney,

Patrolling over New Orleans that day, Maroney felt it be his moral duty to help those in need, in addition to the orders he was assigned. He helped an astounding 140 people from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, one family stood out the most among the many he rescued. It left a lasting impression for years to come.

One Hug Changed Everything


Maroney worked with his fellow officers to save the Brown family from the devastation. Once the whole family made it to safety, LeShay did something completely unwarranted, shortly after her rescue. With all her excitement about being a rescue, LeShay threw her arms around the Sergeant. No one could have known what impact that hug would cause.

A Rescue Retold

Hoist rescue

Maroney knew the little girl he had just saved was special, even though he did not know her name. He recalled the rescue in an interview with the Air Force Times. He said that girl was fearless. As the rescuers, the little girl, and her family were flying above the devastation, she pointed out her home and school from inside the helicopter. It was at the airport, once the family was safely back on the ground, that the little girl embraced her rescuer.

Maroney Writes About The Rescue

maroney journal

Maroney kept a journal in order to help remember all the things he had done in his life. He wrote about the day he rescued the little girl. In a video for the Air Force Times, he read his journal aloud. He wrote “Picked up the cutest little girl today. Gave me the biggest hug, and I melted.” The hug truly brightened his day.

She Gave Him The Strength To Continue


The hug meant much more than what it was to Maroney. “For me, that picture is her smile, and the embrace she gave me was enough to refill my tank, and we went back out and began picking up more people. On that day, it was exactly what I needed,” Maroney told the interviewer for Airman.