Elizabeth Laird, Fort Hood’s Official “Hug Lady”
By: Leslie Galban
Twelve years and counting, Salvation Army volunteer Elizabeth Laird, the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, has been hugging every soldier being deployed or returning home from duty.
Elizabeth and her husband, Ray, moved to Texas more than 40 years ago. They became long-time volunteers for The Salvation Army serving as bell ringers, disaster relief workers, and actively supported their local Salvation Army unit in Copperas Cove.
In 2003, Elizabeth received a phone call from the commanding officer of The Salvation Army Killeen Corps asking for help greeting soldiers at Fort Hood, the largest active duty armored post in the United States Armed Services. Being a veteran of the US Air Force, Elizabeth knew this was important and something she and her husband wanted to be part of. The couple joined other Salvation Army volunteers sending off soldiers with a smile and a hug along with stationery and postage to send letters to their loved ones while deployed. So began years of dedicated service to thousands of soldiers at Fort Hood, earning Elizabeth the affectionate nickname, the “Hug Lady.”
Ray passed away suddenly in January of 2008 and despite her grief Elizabeth continued her faithful service to the soldiers, without her husband of 36 years. “Even in grief, when you help others, it helps you,” explained Elizabeth. “The hug is important to the soldiers and it brings a smile to their face.”
“As they leave, I tell them about God’s protection in the 91st Psalm,” she added. “When I hug them, I tell them ‘I will be here when you get back’.”
Elizabeth, 82, does not consider herself selfless or extraordinary. “Volunteering and encouraging others is what you are supposed to do. That is what The Salvation Army does; where there is a need, the Army is there to meet it,” she said. “People might recognize me as the Hug Lady, but I don’t want people to see me, I want them to see Jesus.”