The Fort Hood Hug Lady, Elizabeth Laird, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 83. Who’s that? A special woman who hugged (estimates say) at least 500,000 American military returning and deploying troops in her lifetime.
“This is my way of thanking them for what they do for our country.I wasn’t hugging in 2003. I used to just shake their hands. But one day, a soldier hugged me, and that’s the way it started.” Elizabeth Laird
A life well-lived
Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She fought that breast cancer for 10 years, and yet, she still managed to be there for each deployment and each return, to hug as many of the men and women as she could. By 2015, however, it had spread to her bones and lungs.
In November, hundreds of soldiers from Fort Hood came to her hospital room to return the hugs she had given to them. By then, everyone knew her days were numbered.
Retired Army Staff Sgt Edmond Clark is among those to have turned up to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen to hug Mrs Laird, who began embracing soldiers after the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003.
After entering her hospital room, he leaned down and said: “You mind if I hug and kiss you?”
She replied softly, “Please do,” so he held out his arms and hugged her frail body.
“I love you so much,”Sgt Clark tearfully told her. “I just had to come and see you.” Sgt Clark was deployed to war three times – and was hugged by Mrs Laird each time for luck.
A true American
Her son, Richard Dewees, created a GoFundMe page. As of November 12, it had gathered over $63K.
Elizabeth was a U.S. Military veteran herself- of the Air Force. In 2014, the 1st Cavalry Division gave her an award of the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” which is known as a symbol of friendship. She also had a sense of humor.
“Sgt. Major Gainey gave me orders before he left that I was to hug every soldier that went out and every soldier that came back and I learned in the Air Force to obey orders.” Elizabeth Laird
In her final days
Grateful military both old and new hugged her back as she fought through her final days in the hospital in Killeen.
She made the hearts of our troops hopeful. Someone cared about them. She was willing to come out no matter what was going on in her life to give them a touch of love. She always wore yellow to remember the troops- she would bring yellow ribbons for others to wear. Whether war-weary, or worried, broken or excited, she made their lives better.
“No matter what’s going on in the world, no matter where, when we come or even if we’re leaving, there is someone there that is always caring for us.” Sgt. First Class Joseph Gates.
The soldiers of Fort Hood will miss this cheery little lady. And the world will be a sad place without her. She left this earth on Christmas Eve…a fitting time for her to join her husband.