‘Hug Lady' Who Welcomed Texas Troops Home Is Ill

Elizabeth Laird is an icon around central Texas and in the military world. Most know the 83-year-old as the "hug lady" and she quite the local celebrity, but Laird is not doing well.

Since 2003, Laird has made it her mission to hug soldiers before they get on the plane to leave for deployments at Fort Hood.

And she's there waiting with a hug when they return home.

It's estimated she's given out around 500,000 to our troops. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Laird, however, is not doing very well. She's battled breast cancer for about 11 years and is currently in the hospital, where she spent time in the ICU.

Despite her cancer fight, she's always there, no matter what time of day or night, to send off and welcome home military members.

Now, soldiers are returning the favor.

The news of her hospitalization has gone viral and service members have been visiting Laird, showing those hugs really did mean something.

"It would be my honor to give her a hug in her time of need," said Staff Sgt. Jarvez Wilkes. "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 visits and hugs have lifted her spirits, along with social media comments and well wishes coming in by the hundreds from people around the world. He can tell her condition has improved.

"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."

In just over 24 hours, people have donated nearly $60,000 to a GoFundMe account raising money for Laird's medical expenses.

NBC 5's Holley Ford contributed to this report.

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