Three people, two Veterans, one goal – “Bring awareness to PTSD by giving love back to humanity one hug at a time.”

Working at VA means being able to give back to those who’ve served. Providing the best possible care is only one aspect of the job, however. Part of a career at VA is showing our nation’s Veterans that they are respected and cared for through Veteran-centric programs. Sometimes healing can take another form, such as a hug.

The Human Hug Project was started by Ian Michael and Gino and Erin Greganti. Ian and Gino are Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, respectively. Erin is a Marine Corps spouse. All three of these founders experienced the effects of PTSD in some way, shape or form in their lives.

PTSD is a significant concern in the Veteran community. It can lead to stress, isolation, anxiety and depression, all of which not only affect the suffering Veteran, but their families and loved ones as well. Some Veterans, however, find themselves suffering alone. For those who suffer from emotional distress, VA has established the Veterans Crisis Line to help. Please reach out for support if needed. You can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255 at any time.

Ian, after seeing a documentary about the healing power of hugs, decided to make a difference for those suffering by creating a “Free Hugs” sign and taking to the road. During his time handing out hugs, he started to realize just how healing a hug can be for both himself – a sufferer of PTSD – and for those he was hugging.

In 2015, Ian partnered up with Gino and Erin and started the Human Hug Project. Their goal is to visit every VA medical center, giving hugs to as many Veterans, and civilians, as possible. So far, they have visited 13 states and hugged more than 20,000 people at 30 different facilities. However, the hugs don’t stop there. In the name of spreading PTSD awareness to all parts of America, the Human Hug Project has started #pedal4ptsd, biking through rural areas.

With approximately 132 facilities still to visit, the Human Hug Project may soon be coming to a VA medical center near you. See the schedule below, or visit their Facebook page for more information.

Ian, Gino, Erin and their teams have given hugs to our nation’s heroes, their loved ones and staff at more than 30 VA medical facilities. Each of those facilities is staffed by hundreds of VHA professionals caring for Veterans. If you’d like to take it beyond that great hug, become one of us. Join us in serving those who’ve served.

Share this story

Published on Apr. 6, 2016

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 197

More Stories

  • With investments in a diverse workforce and leadership, our sense of inclusion equals innovation for the Veterans we serve.

  • Here are the most asked questions and answers about Long COVID. Also, a list of many of the symptoms. Use this list to tell your clinician or care team.

  • “Talk About It Tuesday” guests Lindsay Marth and F. Keith Bradley share their perspectives on what it means to come to VA and support Veterans.