|The Hug Lady of Fort Hood, Elizabeth Laird, died Christmas|
Eve. She's estimated to have given out at least 500,000
hugs to deploying U.S soldiers.
You probably never heard of her, using just her real name. But she was famous, especially around Fort Hood Texas, as she was known as the "Hug Lady."
She made it her job to hang out at the local airport, giving each and every deploying soldier a hug as they departed, and then giving them another hug when they returned from their deployments.
Estimates are she gave at least 500,000 hugs.
"I mean, 1 O'clock in the morning, she was there, and she would say a prayer for the soldiers. She'd hug each one as they walked out the door. And then when you came home at 9 a.m. on a Sunday or whenever time you arrived, she was waiting for you when your plane flew in," Col. Christopher Garver told NPR.
Of course, sometimes a person Laird hugged would never come home.
"What people don't understand is, a hug from her might be the last body contact of affection someone could have experienced. I know it for a fact, because I know some of the people she hugged who came back home in a body bag," retired Command Sgt. Maj. William "Joe" Gainey told the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald.
No doubt the community loved her. When she was sick, dying of breast cancer back in November, a GoFundMe page was set up to pay some of her medical expenses. The goal was to raise $10,000. But in short order, the GoFundMe effort collected close to $95,000.
There's talk of changing the name of the deployment center at Fort Hood after Laird. They're also discussing giving Laird a posthumous Presidential Metal of Freedom for her efforts.
I can't think of a person more deserving of getting that metal.
Funeral services for Laird are scheduled for today in Killeen, in a church that has the capacity to hold about 2,500 people. A big place, but I doubt there's enough room there for everyone who wants to pay respect.
If there's a heaven, I'm sure Laird has hugged everybody up there already.
Rest in peace, Hug Lady. And thank you.