How to Hug a Veteran (Without Invading His or Her Personal Space)

by jennifer

Let me start by saying that I don’t have any firsthand experience with military service. All I know about it is what I’ve learned from talking to people in the military, hearing family stories about relatives who have served, interviewing veterans, reading books and watching documentaries. But when it comes to social awkwardness my level of expertise shoots right up. Let’s just say a few scenarios have unfolded and I was there. (If you’ve ever been in an uncomfortable social situation, feel free to consider yourself a bit of an expert, too.)

On Veteran’s Day it is customary to honor military veterans and thank them for the personal sacrifices they’ve made in service to our country. This is an important message, but sometimes we civilians goof up and come on a little too strong, smothering strangers with wild flag waving and abundant thank yous and hugs. And this can be very annoying to tired veterans who have gone to hell and back to protect us.

So today on Veteran’s Day, I’m unveiling my handmade plan to hug veterans without driving them totally nuts.

It’s a simple plan, really. All you have to do is make a scarf and then give it to a veteran who then receives a non-invasive handmade hug from you when he or she wraps the scarf around his or her neck. If you don’t know a veteran personally to gift a handmade hug, I’m thinking that making a scarf or two and dropping them off at your local VFW Hall or veterans home might be a good way to show your support. (For best results, call ahead to make sure this is ok with the people at the place you plan to drop off your handmade hug.)

If you think this is a good idea and you want to try it. You can knit a scarf, crochet one, or sew one out of soft knit (t-shirt) fabric – the latter being the fastest most preferred (by me) method. (Check out and for a variety of free knitting and crochet patterns.)

Here’s what you do:

1) Get a 1/4 yard  of jersey knit measuring about 54″ long in a fun color. (If you don’t know who will end up with the scarf, consider selecting a unisex print or color scheme.) Fold the fabric in half lengthwise so you have a folded piece measuring 9″ x 54″.

2) Pin folded fabric in place and sew around the edge of the piece leaving a small opening for turning on one short end of the scarf. (For best results, use a ball point needle designed for sewing through stretch knits.)

3) Clip the corners and turn the scarf right side out. Press and topstitch around the edge of the scarf again, closing up the opening as you go.

4) Give the scarf to a veteran either anonymously or in person.

These scarves are nice to wear outdoors, although they are light enough to wear indoors, too.

I decided to tell people to make scarves symbolic of hugs for veterans after reading an article about the difficulty many veterans have adjusting to normal life after a tour of duty. Regardless of personal politics, it’s so important that we unite in our support of our veterans and see to it that they feel our support. We need to let veterans know that we’re glad they’re home and that we’re willing to listen to their stories because, at the end of the day, it’s really the least we can do.

Virtual hugs to you all.

P.S. Here are the instructions to make the wheelchair bags (PDF) courtesy of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. And here is the list of items administrators there are collecting for the veterans (PDF).


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