An icon in Central Texas and across the U.S. military known as the "hug lady" died on Christmas Eve after a battle with cancer.
Elizabeth Laird, 83, passed away on at Metroplex Hospital in Killeen, NBC affiliate KCEN-TV reported.
Beginning in 2003, Laird, herself an Air Force veteran, made it her mission to hug every soldier before they got on the plane to leave for deployments at Fort Hood.
And she was there waiting with a hug when they returned home.
It's estimated the "hug lady" gave out more than 500,000 hugs to our troops.
Laird, however, had her own personal battle to fight. She fought breast cancer for about 11 years.
Still, despite her cancer, she was always there, no matter what time of day or night, to send off and welcome home military members.
The news of her hospitalization in November spread among current and former members of the military, as well as their families.
Scores of soldiers returned the favor by visiting Laird, showing those hugs really did mean something.
"It would be my honor to give her a hug in her time of need," Staff Sgt. Jarvez Wilkes said in November. "I made it my business to get down here and show her a little love because she's shown me plenty of love."
Laird's son, Richard Dewees, said the soldiers' visits and hugs lifted his mother's spirits, along with social media comments and well wishes that poured in by the hundreds from around the world.
"The outpouring of people, the comments coming in, it's amazing," said Dewees. "She's touched this many people in that way with just a simple hug."
On Tuesday before she passed away, members of the 89th Military Police Brigade visited Laird in the hospital and presented her with the Order of the Vivandieres, an honor bestowed upon military police spouses.
Services are pending with Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home of Copperas Cove.
In a statement released Friday, Col. Christopher C. Garver, spokesman for the Fort Hood-based III Corps, said:
"On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as "The Hug Lady." She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed."