Through VR, Xfinity Puts Military Aviators Back in the Skies

Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow helps them soar

For National Military Appreciation Month, Xfinity hosted a special reunion for a squadron of aviators whose shared service has created a special bond.

Through virtual reality, the Vietnam-era flyers returned to skies in their fighter jets.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners, developed the project, which includes "The Aviators," a short film directed by Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow

The story follows a grandfather awaiting a weekend reunion of his fellow U.S. Navy veterans. As he describes the group and the experience of flying an A-4 Skyhawk to his granddaughter, the VR plan takes shape around them.

The cast features a group of real Vietnam veterans who flew the jets featured in the film. Former Navy commander Jack Gillett (call sign: "Razor"), former Navy lieutenant Jim Lloyd (call sign: "Zeke") and former Navy lieutenant Bill Moir (call sign: "Offender") flew together as members of the Gunslingers squadron on the USS Saratoga. Elester Latham (call sign: "Hollywood"), a former major in the Air Force, rounds out the group. This was the first reunion for the squadron in 16 years. 

"The main goal was to create an entertaining and memorable story in time for Military Appreciation Month—a story that effortlessly weaves together Xfinity's powerful WiFi message with the brand's long-standing appreciation for and commitment to veterans," says Jim Elliott, executive creative director at GS&P. 

Over the last decade, Xfinity has hired more than 21,000 veterans and reserve service members, as well as military spouses, with more than 9,000 employees in their ERG Veterans Network.  

Edits of the story have been created for broadcast, along with behind-the-scenes clips and additional shorts for Xfinity's social channels. 

Most rewarding? "Seeing them reconnect with each other on set and then being with them in the room at the premiere and witnessing them watch the film for the first time," says Elliott. "Vietnam vets were not exactly greeted with a warm reception when they returned home from the war. It was such an honor to be able to celebrate them in the way that we did. Hopefully this film helps every veteran who sees it feel appreciated and celebrated."

As part of the campaign, Comcast, Xfinity's parent company, is also launching a new military benefits program and giving $1 million to nonprofits serving the military community.

The campaign runs through June 30.

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