FORT HOOD, Texas - Approximately 200 4th "Long Knife" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers flew out of Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield, en route to Iraq June 10.

Thanks to a 76-year-old lady, with long gray hair down her back, all 200 of the Soldiers can say they've had the opportunity to receive warm hugs from the "hug lady."

Her real name is Elizabeth Laird, but many Fort Hood Soldiers refer to her as the "hug lady."

"She was here when I deployed in 2005, and she was here in March when we went to the Joint Readiness Training Center," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mickael Tatum, a targeting officer for the 4th BCT and a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. "It just shows that people from the outside community really care."

Tatum, along with thousands of Fort Hood Soldiers, has come to look forward to being greeted by Laird at the airport.

The "hug lady" said she has no idea how many hugs she's given out since troops began deploying to Iraq in 2003. She plans to continue the selfless service for Fort Hood Soldiers as long as she can.

"If I make them smile, it's worth my time," she said. "I believe in this country. When I look a Soldier in the eye and realize he is ready to die for his country; there is no greater sacrifice."
She started giving out hugs while volunteering with the Salvation Army.
"A Soldier gave me a hug one day at this airport for my volunteer service," she explained. "So I decided to return the favor to other Soldiers every chance I could."

The "hug lady" said her desire to volunteer started long before OIF when she was only nine years old during World War II.

"We didn't look at it as volunteering," said Laird. "It was patriotism to our country."

The "hug lady" hopes to hug all of the 3,500 of the Long Knife Brigade's Soldiers while the brigade is deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.