HONORED: THE FORT HOOD ‘HUG LADY’ GIVES HUGS TO RETURNING SOLDIERS

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I was a single soldier coming home from Iraq the first time, and I knew my family wasn’t going to be waiting for me when I stepped off the plane at Fort Hood. To be sure, I had leave plans and was going to see them all in a day or two, but they couldn’t afford the trip at the time. I knew all the other guys would have wives and kids waiting for them, so I was feeling a tad bit left out when I was walking in line down the tarmac. That’s when I saw her for the first time. She was with a group of retirees and older people who were cheering for us all. She stopped every soldier and gave them a big hug.

I have to admit that my eyes misted up when she gave me a big hug and said ‘Welcome home young man’.

I’ve always just called her “The Hug Lady”, and everybody knew what I meant. However, her name, which should be spread across the world is Elizabeth Laird.

Yesterday the commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division gave Mrs Laird a well deserved award. For over 13 years she’s dedicated her time and efforts to welcoming home – and hugging – every soldier who made it home from combat.

And that means something.

From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015. Laird was recognized by the Commanding General and Command Sgt. Maj. of the 36th Infantry Division for her service to deploying Soldiers with a plaque and a dozen yellow roses. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015. Laird was recognized by the Commanding General and Command Sgt. Maj. of the 36th Infantry Division for her service to deploying Soldiers with a plaque and a dozen yellow roses. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

(Below is an excerpt from the Fort Hood Public Affairs Division press release)

“I’m very proud of the 1st Cavalry Division for doing that,” said the Commanding General of III Corps and Fort Hood Lt. Gen. Sean Macfarland. “She’s a wonderful lady.”

She is Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady,” who was presented with the Yellow Rose of Texas Award on behalf of the 1st Cavalry Division Oct. 17 at Cooper Field.

Laird started hugging Fort Hood Soldiers in 2003 while volunteering with the Salvation Army.

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Now, more than 10 years later, her signature gesture is known among deploying and redeploying Soldiers leaving Robert Gray Army Airfield.

MacFarland said the recognition is long overdue.

“What an honor,” said the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division Maj. Gen. Michael Bills. “I’ve been hugged by her so many times in the last 10 years for deployments.”

Bills and Command Sgt. Major Andrew Barteky presented the award following the division’s colors uncasing ceremony.

The claps of Soldiers, families and the local community echoed on Cooper Field as Laird received her award.

450x300_q95“She’s just a special, special lady — one that just loves Soldiers and families,” Bills said. “It’s good that we could honor her today.”

Laird accepted the honor, but said she felt that she was not the one who deserved it.

“The Soldiers deserve the recognition,” she said. “They’re the ones keeping us safe.”

Laird said she’s just a little pawn who represents other civilians. “I care, and I take the time to tell them [Soldiers] I care,” she said.

The Yellow Rose of Texas Award is given only through the Office of the Governor to recognize women for their significant contributions to their communities and to Texas in the preservation of Texas history, the accomplishments of the present, and the building of the future.

 

Photos courtesy Fort Hood (III Corps and 1st Cav) PAO.

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