Tuesday 6 December 2016

Soldiers flock to beside of ailing 'Hug lady'(83) to repay years of airport hugs

Elizabeth Laird became Texas' troops beloved 'hug lady' after spending years seeing them off and welcoming them home with a hug

Published 19/11/2015 | 10:52

3/10/10 Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN; Elizabeth Laird, 77, is know on the base of Ft. Hood as the
3/10/10 Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN; Elizabeth Laird, 77, is know on the base of Ft. Hood as the "III Corp Hug Lady". Since 2003 she has been greeting soldiers deploying and returning from their missions with a gentle hug. Sgt. Michael Flanders is the first soldier off the plane and to receive a hug from Laird as he arrives inside the Larkin Terminal at the Robert Gray Army Airfield after coming home from a tour in Iraq. Second in line is Staff Sgt Christopher Jonhson.

An elderly woman who spent years waiting at the airport and hugging returning service people has taken ill, and soldiers are flocking to her bedside to return her kindess.

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Elizabeth Laird used to wait at the airport to shake the hands of returning service people as they appeared in the arrivals hall. In 2003, a soldier hugged her and she says "that's the way it started".

Since 2003, Laird has made it her mission to hug departing and returning soldiers in the Fort Hood airport as "my way of thanking them for what they do for our country" and has become beloved by those deployed from the Texas military base.

Former U.S. Army Capt. Rob Allen told Fox News that he met Laird twice "as many soldiers from Fort Hood do... she was there when we left, and she was there when we came back".

"Hundreds of us were in line, and one by one, she gave everyone a hug ‘goodbye’—maybe even a kiss on the cheek".

On his platoon's return, they were surprised to see Laird there to greet them home.

"It was 2 or 3 in the morning, and there she was –hugging everyone as they got off the plane,” Allen said. “It was the middle of the night and without fail, this lady was there. A special lady".

This month, Laird was told that her breast cancer had spread to her bones and she can no longer live on her own. She was admitted to intensive care and word spread of her condition.

Laird's son, former U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran Richard Dewees, said that "hugging soldiers is something she says the Lord gave her to do".

"I don’t know if she has regrets of me not being met by someone when I returned home from Vietnam, but she’s doing what needed to be done back then" he said. "She’s changed people’s lives".

A GoFundMe page for Laird's medical bills has already raised over $70,000. One donor, Michael Singleton, wrote:

"You were there when I left in 2008 for Iraq and then again when I returned in 2009".

"I was nervous because I had never been outside of the country and just lost my Grandmother... that one hug made a huge difference that year".

"It’s coming from people she’s hugged" Capt. Allen said. "It’s them hugging back".

When Laird was released from the intensive care unit, soldiers flocked to her bedside to return the kindness she showed them when they needed it most.

Laird told Fox News that she hopes to regain her strength and return to the Fort Hood airport to continue hugging the troops.

From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015. Laird was recognized by the Commanding General and Command Sgt. Maj. of the 36th Infantry Division for her service to deploying Soldiers with a plaque and a dozen yellow roses. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015. Laird was recognized by the Commanding General and Command Sgt. Maj. of the 36th Infantry Division for her service to deploying Soldiers with a plaque and a dozen yellow roses. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

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