A petition to honor a woman who hugged soldiers at an air terminal in Fort Hood, Texas, has gained tens of thousands of signatures.
The petition calls for the renaming of the Fort Hood A/DACG air terminal after Elizabeth Laird, who became known as the "Hug Lady" due to her hugging soldiers leaving and returning to the terminal before she died in 2015, according to her obituary. On Wednesday afternoon, it had more than 85,000 signatures.
“Elizabeth Laird was an extraordinary person. It's only right that the building she's seen so many soldiers deploy and come home in is named after her,” the petition says.
Many of the people who signed the petition wrote comments about what Laird meant to them and why they felt she should have the air terminal named after her.
“My husband received many hugs from her — she would hug the nervous, the unsure, the excited, all as they left for deployment. And again she would hug the tired, the bereft, the anxious, and the simply-glad-to-be-home as they returned,” one person who signed the petition wrote. “Naming this place after her will help to continue the memory of one who loved so deeply and gave so much.”
Another person wrote that they had been deployed three times from Fort Hood and received “at least 6 hugs from [Laird].”
“My last deployment she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly [a] wonderful person,” they wrote.
ABC affiliate KXXV reported that the terminal is already named after Army Sgt. George Larkin, who flew in Japanese Doolittle raid during WWII, but that other plans are in place to honor Laird, including one to dedicate the room where she greeted soldiers to her name.
“We got together, and thought it’d be a great idea to take her name and memorialize her and put her name in the room where everybody...went out and came back in,” Anthony Rossi, one of the leaders of the plan to dedicate the room, told KXXV. Rossi also told the station he was interested in commissioning a statue of Laird in the room.
Laird, who had previously been in the Air Force, began shaking hands with soldiers leaving for and returning from the Middle East while volunteering with the Salvation Army in 2003. Oftentimes, that led to her giving the soldiers hugs instead, according to he obituary. Laird had received numerous accolades from her community and the military, according to her obituary, as well as the “Yellow Rose of Texas” award from then-Texas Governor Rick Perry and a letter from former President George W. Bush.
“It didn't matter if it was two o’clock in the morning, two o’clock in the afternoon. It didn’t matter if it was three or four planes coming or three or four planes going. That woman was there. That was the most dedicated individual I’ve ever met in my life,” Casey Wiley, a veteran from Killeen, Texas, told KXXV.