On Aug. 17, Kaheem Bailey-Taylor went to a family member’s birthday party in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to an Army release.
Shortly after leaving the party the JROTC cadet heard gunshots coming from the party and ran back to the house.
“The only thing that was really going through my head was that I’ve got to save my family,” Bailey-Taylor, 17, said in the release. “Everybody calls me crazy for going back but I don’t know what it was. Something in me told me that I had to go and get them.”
Col. Kandace Daffin, the 2nd Brigade Army ROTC commander, with the U.S. Army Cadet Command and Dr. Tony Wallington, the School District of Philadelphia’s superintendent, presented the award to Bailey-Taylor on Jan. 6 for what he did next.
The Medal of Heroism is the highest medal awarded to Army JROTC and ROTC Cadets who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism, according to the release.
“The act must result in an accomplishment so exceptional/outstanding as to set a Cadet apart and involve acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities,” according to the release.
Once he had returned to the party now turned crime scene, Bailey-Taylor assessed the wounded before determining a fellow teen was the most injured.
Bailey-Taylor used Army JROTC first aid training, remained calm and began rendering aid.
Police arrived and helped him transport the victim into a squad car headed to the hospital. He continued to apply pressure to the wound while reassuring the victim on the way.
After reaching the hospital, the cadet called his Army JROTC instructors.
He reached Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Manuel Roman, Army Instructor at Philadelphia Military Academy. Roman rushed to the hospital and stayed with the victim’s mother and Bailey-Taylor through the night and early morning.
“That is why I always say (academy) adults are like family to us. They are always there when you need them most,” Bailey-Taylor said.
PMA is a public school in the Philadelphia school district with around 350 students. All students participate in the Army JROTC program, according to the release.
“We are a regular high school, but we operate on a military model,” Lt. Col. (Ret.) Russell Gallagher, the Army JROTC instructor at PMA said. “Bailey-Taylor thought, as do others, when you come here it is to get you in the military… Our job is to help prepare them for the future, whatever that field is.”
Hours after leaving the hospital, Bailey-Taylor got ready for school, only to face more dreadful news.
“The morning afterward, I got in the shower, and I learned my best friend died in a car accident,” Bailey-Taylor said. “So, I had a real shooting, plus my best friend dying. I was taking hits left and right.”
Through it all, Bailey-Taylor found support in his school community.
“How many people would run towards a shooting? Everyone else ran away, but he ran towards it,” Gallagher said.
“He has such an influence over the 9th graders and his fellow 11th graders. People do look up to him. They do listen to him…. He is just a good kid. A really good kid. He gives everything he has 100 percent.”
“We are proud to have him in the school district of Philadelphia,” Dr. Wallington said during the ceremony. “Cadet Kaheem Bailey-Taylor’s story speaks to the impact of crucial decision-making. As we continue to battle the ongoing impact of gun violence in our city and community it is a reminder that our actions can have life-altering results.”
Upon graduation, Bailey-Taylor hopes to join the Army ROTC and become an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves while pursuing a civilian career as either a police officer in the city of Philadelphia or as a Homeland Security agent.