Soldiers rally to side of ailing Fort Hood's 'hug lady'

The "hug lady" of Fort Hood, whose embrace boosted the spirits of thousands of American soldiers over nearly a decade as they shipped out for Iraq and Afghanistan, is finding her kindness repaid in spades now that she is battling cancer.

Elizabeth Laird, now 83, is beloved by all the men and women who were deployed out of the Texas military base because rain or shine, she never failed to send each one off with a hug as they left Killeen/Fort Hood Regional Airport.

“This is my way of thanking them for what they do for our country," Laird told Thursday from her hospital bed in Copperas Cove, Texas, where she is being treated for breast cancer that has spread to her bones. “I wasn’t hugging in 2003. I used to just shake their hands. But one day, a soldier hugged me, and that’s the way it started.”

Now, the soldiers who felt Laird's kindness are rallying to her side, with a GoFundMe page that has raised nearly $70,000 toward Laird's medical bills.