One big hug at a time, two former Marines are working their way across VA hospitals with their arms spread wide.
The Human Hug Project, co-founded by Iraq conflict veterans Ian Michael and Gino Greganti, and helped by Greganti's wife, Erin, have visited more than 35 military hospitals this year, seeking to purge PTSD.
Their goal is to reach all of them – more than 150 installations – spreading through touch the healing power of knowing you’re not alone.
“Why do I believe you need hugs?” Michael asks in a project video. “Well, why shouldn’t you need hugs? If you wake up and go one day without a hug, then there’s your answer.”
Suffering PTSD means a constant battle with inner demons and the terrifying fear that no one will understand or empathize, according to the vets.
“There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of troubled thoughts,” Michael said. “What we’ve found in the last year is the best way to counter attack those fearful thoughts, is with love.
“That’s the power that keeps driving us,” he said.
That, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from VA hospital staff and veterans themselves, who sometimes are only able to express their gratitude by breaking down in tears.
“When I came back, I was kind of numb to everything,” said Greganti. “Basically, a shell of me came back.”
Their embracing quest was recently shared by HooplaHa, a website dedicated to sharing good news.
The trio’s project has a GoFundMe page, where donations are accepted to fund transportation and travel costs as three journey to Veterans Administration medical centers.