FORT HOOD, TX — A dedication was held Monday for the room where Fort Hood’s “Hug Lady” embraced hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
When heading off to war, there are few guarantees. But one thing soldiers could count on is a loving embrace from Elizabeth Laird before and after a deployment.
Laird served our nation with an open heart. From 2003 until her death in 2015, she gave an estimated 500,000 hugs.
“It’s like this, how do you describe it? Looking up, but eyes wide open ... it was an eyes wide open embrace,” said Chaplain Col. Brian Chepey, recounting his experience with Laird.
The memorable encounter left an impression on countless soldiers.
“She genuinely cared. It wasn’t something that she was told to do, she did it from the kindness of her heart and she cared for each and every person that walked through these doors,” said Christopher Peckham, who flew in from Georgia for the dedication.
He had previously started a petition to rename the Fort Hood Air Terminal, which garnered more than 80,000 signatures. However, the terminal was already named after Army Sgt. George Larkin, who flew in the Doolittle raid. The room dedication had been a plan for a long time before.
“She took her time out of her retirement and the last days of her life to be here for us and ensure that everybody had some love. Because not every soldier has family locally. Not every soldier’s family can be here when they leave and come back home,” said Peckham.
Laird’s daughter, Susan Dewees-Taylor, who gave remarks at the dedication, holds her mother’s legacy close to their hearts.
“She would say I got this flight in 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning and it would just be two people and it amazed me like I said earlier, how she just loved each one personally,” she said.