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Take some time on this day to think about the freedoms offered through those who serve in the military, and also to show some appreciation for those service men and women who work so hard to provide it. It’s time to enjoy and celebrate National Hug a G.I. Day! 

History of National Hug a G.I. Day

The story behind the term “G.I.” is an interesting one that has a number of different interpretations. It seems that originally the term “G.I.” stood for galvanized iron, which is the material from which many different items were made, such as buckets or trash cans. The letters “G.I.” were stamped on these items and so it began to be used to define anything which was related to the army. As this happened, the term “G.I.” was interpreted to mean “government issue”, “general issue”, or even “ground infantry”, but that wasn’t where it first came from.

The prevalence of the term “G.I.” during World War II led the American soldiers to begin referring to themselves as G.I.s. Some soldiers would use the term sarcastically to imply that they are simply just another standard issue item from the army, rather than a human being. It was during this same time in World War II that “G.I. Joe” became a term that was used to describe a typical American soldier and a cartoon of the same name followed.

By 1944, President Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, which became casually known as the “G.I. Bill”. This legislation provided benefits and help to veterans returning from war, including special unemployment insurance, home loans and college funding.

National Hug a G.I. Day got its start quite a bit later, in 1996 ,when it was founded by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith. The idea behind the day was to honor and show appreciation for men and women of the armed forces who are serving (or have served) their country.

National Hug a G.I. Day was established to be celebrated on March 4th because it is the only date of the year that also acts as a military command – “march forth”. So, it’s a fun little way to remember that these soldiers, airmen, sailors and other members of the military forces might just need a hug now and then! And if they can’t get an actual hug, then it’s still a great time to show appreciation in some other ways.

How to Celebrate National Hug a G.I. Day

Say you care and show some love on National Hug a G.I. Day with a wide variety of creative actions and activities, including some of these:

Hug a G.I.

It’s so easy when the name of the day also tells everyone how to celebrate! National Hug a G.I. Day is here to remind friends, family members and other loved ones of the nation’s service men and women that everyone can use a hug now and then – even a member of the armed forces.

Of course, before hugging anyone, it’s important to be sure to ask them first to make sure it’s okay! In addition to simply respecting people’s boundaries, it is also helpful to remember that some G.I.s return from service with injuries, chronic pain, mental health issues, or even PTSD, so be sure to communicate clearly with them about the hope for a hug.

Other good ways to show affection that perhaps aren’t so intimate might be a firm handshake, a pat on the back, or a high five. Whatever the relationship, be sure to set aside a moment to show some appreciation and say thank you for the hard work these folks do to serve their country.

Send a G.I. Care Package

One excellent way to show some love to members of the military might be to gather up a care package to be sent overseas. Those who know someone who is serving overseas can make up their own care package and send it through the typical US Postal Service.

But even those who don’t personally know a man or woman in the military can still send a care package. While the Department of Defense does not have such a program itself, there are several different legitimate non-profit organizations that exist to help do just that (although it’s important to beware of potential scammers). 

One such program is Holiday for Heroes by the American Red Cross, and others can be found through the official US military website

Help and Support Veterans

Organized to serve those who have been actively engaged in serving their country, the National Veterans Foundation encourages individuals, groups and communities to show support to veterans. In honor of National Hug a G.I. Day, it is possible to offer small gestures that can make a big impact.

Check out some of these important suggestions for supporting those who used to be G.I.s and are now veterans:

  • Visit wounded veterans. Veterans Association facilities are located all over the United States and visiting those who are in these medical centers might be a great way to show some appreciation for their service.
  • Provide transportation. One difficulty that veterans may have, especially those who are wounded, is getting transportation to and from their medical and health appointments. Drivers can sign up to become part of a volunteer network that helps veterans.
  • Help fight homelessness. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans works to prevent eviction or foreclosure for those who have served in the armed forces. Volunteer or make a donation to this organization.
  • Visit a vet with your pet. It is a well-known fact that pets provide care, nurturing and stability to people in need. Veterans who have difficulties with mental or physical health may appreciate the ability to spend time with pets who are trained in animal-assistance therapy.