Airmen, get ready: ‘National Hug a G.I. Day’ is March 4

(Courtesy graphic)

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(Courtesy graphic)

Servicemen and servicewomen, don’t be surprised if someone wants to give you a hug March 4. As the only day on the calendar that is mnemonically a military command, March 4 recognizes “National Hug a G.I. Day.”

While G.I.s refer to Army personnel, the day encompasses all those who have served in the military. The term G.I. is now fairly commonly known to refer to those serving in the U.S. armed forces. How that came to be is a little less military protocol and more the American story.

It seems at the turn of the 20th century, G.I. was a notation used in supply records for galvanized iron. It was later used during World War I for German artillery shells made from galvanized iron.

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Sometime during the war soldiers started interpreting the initials as “Government Issue” or “General Issue.” By the time World War II came around, it was starting to gain meaning as the generic enlisted man.

Not surprisingly, sarcastic usage among many servicemen was common, feeling they were just like any other government-issued supply being mass-produced for “Uncle Sam.”

About that time G.I. Joe was born. His creator, comic strip artist and former Army Sgt. David Breger, issued his first G.I. Joe cartoon series in “Yank” magazine on June 17, 1942.

The term G.I. became more permanently etched in the American language when in 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill that became known as the G.I. Bill – Servicemen’s Readjustment Act.

There was no going back when Hasbro trademarked their G.I. Joe as an action figure in 1964.


Find a G.I. you know and ask him or her if it is OK to give them a hug. Is your G.I. too far away to give a hug? Send him or her a virtual one via text, e-mail, phone or even snail mail. Use #HugAGIDay to post on social media.

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