AUSTIN (KXAN)- With a hug full of love, Elizabeth Laird welcomed home soldiers at Fort Hood for years.
Since 2003, she was there as troops left on deployment. She was there when they came home. But on Christmas Eve, the Fort Hood community said goodbye to Laird.
On Friday the III Corps released a statement in remembrance of Laird.
“She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees,” wrote Col. Christopher C. Garver. “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.
Affectionately known as the ‘Hug Lady’, Laird gained a following among the men and women on post, especially from the 1st Cavalry. The division posted a photo and memorial to the woman who brought so much comfort to the troops.
With hundreds of comments and thousands of shares, veterans and current soldiers alike bid Laird a farewell.
Daniel Shrigley, who started the Survival Talk Radio program after four deployments called Laird, “the Mother of all military members, she deserves to be a Saint.”
Shrigley continued, “may she Rest In Peace as she joins her husband in heaven. Bless her ever loving soul.”
In 2005, Laird was diagnosed with breast cancer. it didn’t stop her from hugging. But in November of 2015, she was hospitalized. In December, she moved to the Rosewood Nursing and Rehab Center in Harker Heights. Throughout her recovery, troops came by Laird’s room to give her a hug.
Laird made it a mission to hug soldiers before every deployment. According to a GoFundMe page created by Laird’s son to help pay for her medical bills, Laird hugged close to 500,000 troops since the start of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That page raised more than $90,000 as of Christmas.