For the soldiers leaving for deployment, Elizabeth Laird wanted to do all that she could. She didn’t have much, but she was able to give them something that they all appreciated: a hug! She waited for them to leave, hugging each and every person who didn’t have family to see them off. Hugging each brave soldier who was willing to put their lives on the line for their fellow Americans.
She would be there when they returned home, too. Although many of these returning soldiers had family waiting to welcome them home, for those that weren’t so fortunate, Elizabeth was waiting for them with arms outstretched, giving what little comfort she could to the young men and women returning home. For over 12 years, this has been her contribution…until she stopped showing up.
By rough calculation, Elizabeth had given over half a million hugs to departing and returning soldiers. She was such an integral part of this routine that they instantly noticed her absence. Her adorable smile and beautiful heart was noticeably absent, and the soldiers decided to find out where she was.
What these soldiers didn’t know was that Elizabeth began her battle with breast cancer over 11 years ago, but no one knew of her struggle. When she didn’t appear at the departure, everyone began to search. They finally located her in an intensive care unit, racking up hospital bills and missing out on her hugs.
Staff Sergeant Jarvez Wilkes decided that she deserved their support after she had given so much to them. She comforted them in times of fear and anxiety, giving them hope and reassurance that they were making the right choices. When asked why he decided to start this campaign, he said “It would be my honor to give her a hug in her time of need. I made it my business to get down here and show her a little love because she’s shown me plenty of love.”
These soldiers decided to help Elizabeth out with her hospital stay, too. Her breast cancer metastasized to her lungs and bones. She has chosen not to go forward with chemotherapy and radiation treatments and instead has insisted on prayer. They started a GoFundMe account that has now reached over $85,000 to be used towards her medical care.
As an Air Force veteran herself, she says that she hopes her hugs can give these troops the comfort that they need as they face the hardest challenges in life. Her story is incredible, and the soldiers that she has touched will not soon forget this brave an unique lady who gave so much of her time to supporting them!
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