‘A miracle:’ U.S. Marine veteran finds missing Florida boy safe in woods

Roy Link, a veteran Marine, found Joshua "JJ" Rowlands safe in the woods. He left his Brooksville home while his parents were sleeping.

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — A U.S. Marine veteran is being hailed as a hero Friday for finding a 2-year-old boy who had been missing since wandering out of his north Florida home a day earlier.

“I said a prayer about 10 minutes before I found him,” Roy Link told Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis in a video the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook.


Volunteer Roy Link speaks to Sheriff Nienhuis about locating Joshua JJ Rowland.

Posted by Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Friday, February 24, 2023

Some 500 volunteers and scores of law enforcement officers had searched for Joshua “JJ” Rowland since he was reported missing by his parents. Sheriff’s officials said the boy left the home in Brooksville while one of his parents was asleep.

“Roy Link is the man of the year here in Hernando County,” the sheriff said.

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Brooksville is about 50 miles north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The boy was found in the woods a “good distance” from his house, Nienhuis said.

“The good news is he did not end up in any water, obviously, and he was not abducted,” the sheriff said. “He was found in the woods. He seems to be fine. He’s definitely going to have something to tell his kids and grandkids about.”

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The sheriff said he was overwhelmed by the large number of volunteers who turned out to look for the child.

The boy was checked by paramedics and appeared to be fine, the sheriff said.

“I was hoping and praying for a miracle. I certainly was not expecting one,” he said. “I’m sure mom and dad are going to keep an eye on him from this point forward.”

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