“I’m there right now … I just put some soldiers on a plane.”
If you thought that’s a swashbuckling general talking about deploying his platoon, you are erringly off the mark. Elizabeth Laird, the woman behind the words, is a tender and spirited 82-year-old Air Force Veteran, fondly known as “The Hug Lady.”
For the Fort Hood troops, she is a tonic to their anxious – at times, weary – spirits.
To say that she is imprinted on the minds of every soldier in Ft. Hood sounds extreme, but is nonetheless true. She is the last person they see before they are deployed to the battlefield, and hers are the first arms that embrace them when they return. Laird is there to hug each one of them, unfailingly, every single time.
The Army circle is filled with her stories, as soldiers recollect the first time they met Laird and how they were smitten by her unflinching warmth.
“All I can figure is that one day a soldier hugged me and there was another soldier standing there. Well, he hugged me and it just kind of steamrolled,” Laird said, when asked how it started. She doesn’t work by the clock, either: It may be in the middle of the night that a group is on its way back to Fort Hood, but the soldiers can pretty much count on her to be there.
An act that outsizes the adjective, noble, hugging soldiers goes beyond the sentimentality of it all.
“My purpose is to tell them the Lord will protect them if they ask him. I give them the 91st psalm, the soldier’s psalm, and if there’s no chaplain, I’ll pray for them,” Laird explained.
Bringing smiles to soldiers’ faces has been the motivation, as she wants to give them an uplifting reminder they are cared for, and that their sacrifices and the daily grind they have to endure are fully recognized.
Laird witnessed to the horrors of World War II, which is when the seeds of serving her nation were planted. Married one time to a Marine, she later chose an entirely unique path to serve her nation. The soldiers are like a family to her and she is often invited for the dining and get-togethers at the Fort Hood facilities.
“I want every one of them to come home.” Laird said, overwhelmed by emotion every time soldiers leave for war.
Maria, a blogger by profession, has her roots in Army. While her job dictates writing on technology, she grabs every chance coming her way to go back to her roots. Maria works for Web Development Company – Xicom Technologies and can be reached on Twitter at: @mariamincey64