Elizabeth Laird is a familiar face to American troops deployed overseas and returning home: since 2003, the octogenarian has been known as "the Hug Lady" for her appearances at the airport in Fort Hood, Texas, where she hugs each and every troop leaving or coming back.
Recently, however, neither troops nor the airport have seen the Hug Lady. That's because she's been fighting a war of her own against breast cancer for as nearly as long as she's been giving hugs.
"I've had breast cancer since 2005," the 83-year-old Laird said in an interview with WFAA. "It has metastasized to my bones and my lungs."
According to a GoFundMe page set up by her son, Richard Dewee, she will soon be living in assisted care.
Dewee set up the page in the hopes of raising $10,000 to help defray some of his mother's medical costs.
Now American troops are showing how much she means to them: after just 10 days, the fund has raised more than $86,000.
"They just want to thank her, for encouraging them, for giving them something to look for … they knew when they went over there, when they came back, someone would be waiting," Dewee told The Washington Post. "A lot of them say they don't have families, but they have her."
Although seemingly frail, the Hug Lady is determined to get back out there.
"Got flights coming up," she told retired Army Staff Sgt. Edmond Clark. "Got to get out and hug you."