Iraq War veteran Ian Cooke has one more battle to wage, and he’s winning it with the healing power of hugs. The former marine returned from deployment and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but this tough guy didn’t let the disorder get the best of him.
Instead, Cooke found a unique coping mechanism that he shares with everyone where ever he goes.
Cooke embarked on a cross-country journey to bring hugs to veterans and anyone else he encounters throughout the United States. From February to June 2015, Cooke and a buddy from the Marines logged more than 25,000 miles through their website, the Human Hug Project. The new mission aims to take painful memories and replace them with a “sense of brotherhood and appreciation” that gives others hope.
The dynamic hugging duo visits Veterans Affairs medical centers, and the mission even caught the notice of the federal government’s VA Facebook page. One inspiration for his journey comes from a former president; Cooke explains, “Lincoln once reminded us to care for those who shall have borne the battle.”
The effects of the Human Hug Project have been profound. Medical staff join in the crusade to hug patients. One man told RTV6 in Indianapolis, “I feel great. What they’re doing is good. It’s a wonderful thing because it does help to know there’s support out there,” especially since many war veterans feel different, scared and lonely upon returning to the home front. Getting a hug from someone who understands can turn a day, an attitude or even a life around for the better. Cooke calls the embraces his “new medicine.”
A human hug may be exactly what the doctor ordered. A study published in March 2015 touts a hug displays emotional and social support, which reduces stress in individuals. Over a two-week period, participants who hugged more often developed less severe cold symptoms after researchers intentionally infected them with a rhinovirus. People who felt less socially deprived may have had better immune responses due to less stress.
Cooke doesn’t plan to be stressed any time soon. After he visited Indianapolis in June 2015, he headed to Cincinnati to another VA facility. Interested parties can track the hugster’s progress on the official website. Better yet, everyone should hug the people they care about more often to help heal psychological wounds from the past and maybe even keep a cold at bay.Whizzco