Elizabeth Laird is dubbed the official Fort Hood Hug Lady.
The 72-year-old hugs every soldier to deploy from the base, and every soldier to come home to the base.
The sunny, smiling woman stands at just 4 feet 10 inches tall, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Dressed in black Ugg boots and a long skirt, Laird opens her arms to all of the men and women decked in fatigues, and puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Oftentimes, she hugs the same soldiers, first when they leave the Texas base and again when they return from the Middle East. She started her heartwarming tradition in June 2003, as a volunteer for the Salvation Army.
“I don’t remember exactly how it started, but I think a soldier hugged me. And when he hugged me, there was a soldier over there, so he had to have a hug, and it just snowballed,” she says in this video, which has recently gone viral across the Internet.
Laird isn’t the only “hug lady” out there, as TakePart featured another kind soul in 2010: Bette Rose Bowers, the hug lady for soldiers who come through Atlanta’s international airport.
Watching these inspiring women, you can’t help but feel a renewed appreciation for the men and women fighting for the U.S. abroad.
“The Lord willing, I’ll be here to hug you when you come home,” Laird says. “It’s just my way of saying thanks for what they do to us.”
Have you ever encountered anyone like the Hug Lady? Let us know in the comments.
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Kelly Zhou hails from the Bay Area and is currently a student in Los Angeles. She has written on a variety of topics, predominantly focusing on politics and education. Email Kelly | @kelllyzhou | TakePart.com