Every time soldiers returned at the airport at Fort Hood, they would be hugged by Elizabeth Laird and every time they left for deployment, they would be hugged by Elizabeth Laird. The 83-year-old central Texan was adamant about always giving each soldier a hug, whether they were being deployed or returning. She knew the importance of a friendly, warm hug.
It was a small, but important gesture for every soldier that was about to be deployed. Here was one woman who wanted every soldier to know that they were appreciated for their service to our country and she was taking time out of her day to dedicate it to each soldier. It was a hug full of warmth, compassion and recognition and when you’re about to head off to the battlefield, it can really help relax the nerves.
When the soldiers came home, Elizabeth Laird was always there to greet them back at home.
Since 2003, she has been doing it and has since earned the nickname “hug lady”, becoming a legend among locals near Fort Hood. It’s estimated that she’s given around half a million hugs to soldiers!
But then one day when troops were about to be deployed Elizabeth wasn’t to be seen. It was very unusual for her to not be there to give a goodbye hug..
Instead of being at the airport, Elizabeth was at the hospital continuing her long 11 year fight against breast cancer. But the soldiers she had supported with a warm and friendly hug for the past 12 years weren’t going to let her fight it alone. Those same soldiers were going to visit her and give her the support she needed. In fact the soldiers have come to give her hugs! Instead of Elizabeth giving the love and support to the soldiers, they were able to finally give her the support she had given unconditionally for the past 12 years.
“It would be my honor to give her a hug in her time of need. I made it my business to get down here and show her a little love because she’s shown me plenty of love.” said Staff Sgt. Jarvez Wilkes in an interview with NBC.
And the support from the soldiers have really had a positive impact on Elizabeth. Her son, Richard Dewees, told NBC that the visits, hugs and support on social media had lifted her spirits higher than ever before.
That isn’t all, though. On the website GoFundMe people contributed over $95,000 to help her with her medical bills and other support.
Tragically, despite the vast amount of support, Elizabeth passed away in December of 2015. She passed peacefully with her son and beloved nurse by her side. Elizabeth died a very happy woman, however, thanks to the endless support from the soldiers and public that helped her in her last months.
Her dedication towards supporting our troops was truly admirable. This heartwarming story of the military troops that she has hugged countless times visiting her in her time of need stands as a monument to the change that she created. Consider hugging a veteran today in her memory.