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Fort Hood dedicates room at airfield to the 'Hug Lady'

Susan Dewees-Taylor and Richard Dewees unveil a replica of a plaque to honor their mother Elizabeth Laird, the "Hug Lady," during a ceremony in Laird's honor July 1, 2019 at Robert Gray Army Airfield at Fort Hood, Texas. They are joined by the Fort Hood command team, Lt. Gen. Robert P. White and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex.

ROSE L. THAYER/STARS AND STRIPES

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 1, 2019

FORT HOOD, Texas — The story of Fort Hood’s "Hug Lady" will live on through a plaque at the base’s Robert Gray Army Airfield commemorating her dedication to soldiers. Elizabeth Laird, commonly referred to by soldiers at the base as the Hug Lady, attended every flight in and out of the central Texas base for 12 years just to hug them.

Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, Fort Hood’s commander, along with Laird’s family, unveiled a plaque Monday in a ceremony naming the room for Laird, who delivered hugs there to roughly 500,000 soldiers. The plaque hangs outside the entrance of the room where troops gather before flights. It features a photograph of Laird and reads, “Forever remembered for a priceless gift that was invaluable to the Fort Hood community.”

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Laird, an Air Force veteran, died from cancer in 2015. Though her two children in attendance said she would not have wanted such a fuss made about her, they were happy to see their mother remembered.

“She was a lady who had a heart of gold,” said Susan Dewees-Taylor, Laird’s daughter. “She told me once she would look into the eyes of each soldier and see the love of their country.”

Also in attendance was Sgt. Christopher Peckham, a Chinook helicopter mechanic at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia. Unaware of this pending honor for Laird, he created a petition last month asking Fort Hood to rename the terminal at the airfield in Laird’s honor. His petition received more than 88,0000 signatures. The terminal is already named in honor of Staff Sgt. George Larkin, who participated in the Doolittle Raid during World War II.

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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Capt. Edward Boncek receives a hug from Elizabeth Laird, affectionately known as "The Hug Lady," prior to boarding his flight to Afghanistan, July 11, 2013 at Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield. Soldiers asking the Defense Department and Fort Hood through a petition to rename in her honor the terminal at the airfield.
CHRIS BRIDSON/U.S. ARMY

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