Elizabeth Laird earned the nickname “Hug Lady” after embracing hundreds of thousands of soldiers either heading out or returning from deployment at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
Laird, who died on Christmas Eve at Metroplex Hospital, battled breast cancer for 10 years and would have turned 84 next month. She made headlines over her vow to greet all departing and arriving Fort Hood soldiers with a warm hug.
According to Laird’s son, she refused chemotherapy and radiation, opting instead for natural treatments. She was moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit in November after developing tachycardia, an abnormally fast heartbeat, KWTX reports.
Laird was known in the city in regard to her compassion for the troops. On a GoFundMe account dedicated to raising money for Laird before she passed, a staff sergeant wrote, “I deployed three times and this nice woman greeted me each time. I looked forward to those hugs lol. Get well soon mama.”
Some estimate that Laird hugged more than half -a-million returning troops -- her way of saying thank you – over the past 12 years. She said it was important to her that soldiers knew someone at home cared about them.
“For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed,” public affairs officer for III Corps, Col. Christopher C., said Friday in a statement.
Laird’s funeral service will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at the Christian House of Prayer in Killeen.