New Tools Help to Connect Extended Military Community

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The gift enables patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia; Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., Navy Medical Center San Diego in California and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to borrow the devices as they rehabilitate.

The Red Cross, which is administering the loaner program, is helping its volunteers get training on the devices so they can in turn help patients access the Internet and use various online tools to stay in touch with their families and friends.

Sherri L. Brown, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces senior vice president, called the devices "a terrific tool for these patients," especially those far from their homes. They "provide patients and families with a means to keep in touch, as well as an opportunity for patients to continue relationships with other families they met while being treated," she said.

Carrie Laureno, founder of the Google Veterans Network, came up with the Chrome for Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors program after one of her loved ones was killed in action and she visited one of his comrades being treated at the former Walter Reed hospital.

The visit inspired Laureno to find a way for Google to work with the Red Cross to help patients at military hospitals as they recovered. "Four years later I fulfilled my promise," she said. "The Chromebooks will help these patients build a support network and improve their quality of life."

To kick off the program, 20 members of the Google Veterans Network delivered 275 Chromebooks to Walter Reed and led one-on-one training over the course of two days for patients, their family members, hospital staff and Red Cross volunteers.

Meanwhile, Google recently launched other new tools and platforms to help military members, their families and veterans communicate and collaborate. The site, Google for Veterans and Families, helps the extended military community share experiences, build resumes and seek employment. One of its newest features, unveiled last week in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, is a job bank for veterans.

Another Google service enables any U.S. service member, including those serving overseas, to call friends and family in the United States at no charge directly from their Gmail accounts.

Calls will be free at least until the year's end, officials said, with details posted on the Gmail website.

We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad," officials said, "and we're proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice."