Elizabeth Laird earned the name “Hug Lady” for giving out approximately 500,000 hugs to soldiers deploying or returning home at Fort Hood’s air terminal for 12 years. Later today, the exact room where she greeted the soldiers will be dedicated in her honor.
A petition launched in May urging Fort Hood to rename the air terminal after Laird, who died in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer. The petition attracted nearly 90,000 signatures as of July 1.
“In 2003, when soldiers were coming and going to the Middle East she wanted to show her appreciation for what they were doing and while volunteering with the Salvation Army; she began shaking hands which led to giving each one a hug,” Laird’s obituary read. “Elizabeth received orders from CSM Gainey to hug every one of his troops when leaving and returning from overseas and that started her final career as the ‘Hug Lady.’”
“This was her love - many times talking about the look in the soldier’s eyes, how proud they were to serve their country to protect their loved ones at home,” the obituary said.
Fort Hood announced in June that the room where she would embrace soldiers would be dedicated in her honor, although the terminal’s name honoring a soldier who flew in the Doolittle raid will remain the same.
Soldiers who received hugs from Laird commented on the petition and shared the impact she had on their lives. Merrill Davidson said her hug made him “cry with joy” when he returned from a deployment in Afghanistan.
“I lost a buddy to a roadside bomb less than a month before,” Davidson said. “I didn’t have any family meeting me that day and i [sic.] was so depressed. Her hug made me cry with joy. I thought I didn’t have anyone there that was happy to see me home that day until i [sic.] realized there was one person there that was.”