Carrie Laureno ’95 has an atypical background for a veterans’ advocate. She never served in the military, did not grow up in a military family, and first came into close contact with active-duty soldiers when she was in her 20s. But in October 2007, when Laureno’s close friend and former boyfriend Army Maj. Jeff Calero was killed in action in Afghanistan, she found herself looking for a positive way to channel her grief. She wanted to help veterans and their families.

At the time, Laureno had just started working for Google, a company with a collegial ethos that encourages employees to start interest groups. There are thousands, she says, devoted to common pursuits like yoga and soccer. In 2007, however, there were no groups for veterans and military families. “I recognized that Google could be a friendlier place for people who served than it was at that time,” she says. The Google Veterans Network that she founded now has about 800 members. They organize volunteer activities for employees and have successfully encouraged the company to recruit and hire more veterans.

Since 2010, Laureno has been helping Google to serve the wider community of veterans and their families through VetNet, a public outreach platform that uses Google tools such as Hangouts and YouTube videos to help those who’ve served find civilian jobs or launch entrepreneurial ventures. Laureno and her colleagues have built collaborations with the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a handful of leading nonprofits.

In a relatively short span, Laureno has gone from knowing relatively little about military life to meeting with many of the nation’s leaders in veterans affairs — all because of one tragic loss and her response to it. “It’s kind of amazing,” she says. “It’s changed my life.”

Read more about Google’s support for veterans on the company’s blog.

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