Nov. 11, 2011 — -- On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month .... Veterans Day, which happens to be 11/11/11, is marked today by Google's famous "Doodle," with a gentle watercolor by Mike Dutton, a Google staff member who is the son of a Vietnam vet.
And behind it is a new project the company has sponsored to help returning veterans get help, connect with their fellow service members and explain their experiences to their loved ones. There's more information at the site Google has set up, Google for Veterans and Families.
The company says there will be links called "Vet Connect" on Google+, its social network, to help veterans find one another, and there will be videos on YouTube to reassure returning service members that they are not alone.
The face of the project, who talks to the camera in some of the YouTube videos, is Mike Reeves, a former Army Ranger who did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's now a Google employee, but on the way to his current job he says he went through a tough journey.
"When I came back I felt I didn't have any support group," he said in a telephone interview. "I didn't know what to do."
He hadn't been to college. He said he wrote a resume that listed every weapons system he knew how to operate but found it wasn't very useful in civilian life. Perhaps worst of all, he said, his mother and his fiancee wanted to help, and he had no idea how to tell them what he'd really been through on the front.
"I had nothing," he said. "There were plenty of times I could have given up."
He didn't. He got a degree, and has landed at a booming company. Now he's working on the Google for Veterans and Families project. In the videos that are part of it, he and other former troops share their experiences and feelings. If a loved one asks a difficult question, some of the videos may help explain what a former service member has trouble putting into words.
"It was easier for me to talk to a camera than to my mom or my fiancee," he said. "I don't know why. But the videos from some of the others hit on what I experienced."
He said he hopes to use the Vet Connect feature to find some of his own former Ranger comrades: "These guys were brothers or even closer at the time."
There is one particular benefit to having been in war, said Reeves, that he hopes the new project will spread to others -- if you can get through battle, you can get through anything.
"I get flustered less," he said. "I know I'm never going to be as hungry or tired or scared as I was over there."