As we celebrate our freedom in just a couple of days, one group is making sure we remember those who fought for our country. The Human Hug Project has returned to West Michigan to do what they do best, make a difference with one simple gesture.
"We travel the country to give veterans hugs to tell them 'Thank You' for their service and to also let you know you are loved, and there are people out there that care about you," Ian Michael said to a veteran in Waco Texas last Spring.
Michael, a Marine vet, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after he came back from the war. PTSD is a condition that some people develop after experiencing a life threatening event. It can cause symptoms including, flashbacks, anxiety, and a feeling of guilt or shame.
After finding himself in a dark place, Michael had a vision.
"I had this dream that I was biking across the country and giving hugs and I thought it was ridiculous," he said.
Fast forward to today and its not so ridiculous.
"We were seeing that our stories would get unlocked as we gave hugs and we saw healing from just having that human connection," Michael, the founder of the Human Hug Project, said.
"PTSD is isolation, it's anxiety, it's the complete opposite of a hug. When we hug, we break down this wall and they break down our walls and we see this healing process."
Ian and his partners Gino and Erin have committed to going to every VA hospital. They have visited 45 thus far.
"How does it make me feel? Honored I feel honored because what we're doing is unlocking stories and they're making sure we're creating stories along the way so its beautiful," he said.
If you want to meet those behind the Human Hug Project they will be at the Beer Bands and BBQ event on Monday July 3 in Grandville from 8 to 11 pm. They'll also be making a visit to the Battle Creek VA.
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