The change.org online petition started a week ago to rename the Fort Hood air terminal after Elizabeth Laird has now reached more than 71,000 signatures.
Laird, who died Dec. 24, 2015, was affectionately known as the “Hug Lady” for attending almost every Fort Hood deployment since 2003 until her death, hugging an estimated 500,000 soldiers.
The petition was started by Christopher Peckham of Savannah, Georgia.
Unfortunately for those who want to name the terminal after Laird, however, the terminal is already named after someone — Army Sgt. George Larkin, one of the noncommissioned officers who flew in the Doolittle raid during World War II, according to retired Army Col. Todd Fox. Larkin died in Burma after his B25 crashed during the raid.
Many of those signing the petition wrote on the site that they were soldiers who had received one of Laird’s hugs both when they deployed and when they returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is some good news for them, however. Tony Rossi, who for 14 years was the DJ at all homecomings on Fort Hood, began a project three years ago with retired Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey to name the room inside the terminal where Laird gave out her hugs after her.
“It was approved last April, but the room has not been officially dedicated yet,” Rossi said. “We’re working on getting the family out here and should soon be having a dedication ceremony.”
Some of those who wrote on the petition believe the building should still be named after Laird, despite the terminal already being named after a soldier killed in combat.
Criss Dougherty, from Nolanville, wrote: “I was so selfish as a young soldier... I was so selfish. I thought ‘why do I have to hug her.’ As I deployed more, she was so vital to my mental health. I signed this, and I have spoken to many who believe that (r)egardless of who the terminal is currently named after, it’s only fitting it be named after Mrs. Laird!”
Ivan Martinez wrote: “I was one of the thousands of soldiers hugged on their way to (an uncertain) fate. Her hug did more for me than you could imagine. On the way back her hug signifies an end to a long watch. She deserves it more than I could ever express.”
Read more about Fort Hood's Hug Lady: