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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

AARP: Asian American Veterans Since The Birth of the Nation

Entered in Social Good Campaign


How might we give care and advocate for the needs of Asian America and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Veterans, Military, and their families (VMF)?

AARP, in collaboration with diaspora storytelling platform NextDayBetter, designed and launched a storytelling campaign entitled "AAPIs in the United States Military" for Veterans Day. The awareness campaign amplified stories that honor the courage, sacrifice, and service of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the U.S. Armed Forces since the birth of our nation.

Our research showed that many Americans believe that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the military is a recent phenomenon - a dangerous perception that prevents many Americans from adequately recognizing the valor of AAPI veterans and advocating for their unique caregiving needs.

We designed a campaign with the following goals:

1. Collaborate with AAPI Influencers and Community Organizations to design and share a storytelling experience that increases awareness of AAPI VMF as pivotal heroes and actors in the U.S. military past, present, and future.

2. Build a new American narrative that is inclusive of the AAPI VMF experience.

3. Tell untold, evergreen stories that empower movement building and advocacy for the unique caregiving needs of AAPIs in the years to come.

4. Generate AARP and community-led, online and offline conversations around veterans caregiving.

Our campaign is a rallying call for an inclusive approach to the AAPI Veteran Caregiving conversation. Ultimately, this campaign helps tell untold stories that define the AAPI military and veteran experience, as part of the American fabric and narrative.

Strategy and Execution

We collaborated with NextDayBetter, a minority-owned storytelling platform, to design a storytelling campaign that empowers diasporas to take action around caregiving for multicultural veterans.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been serving in the U.S. military since 1812. Many veterans are in need of culturally-competent care. Through storytelling, we ask: how might we tell stories that honor the sacrifice, courage, and achievement of AAPI Veterans? How can storytelling ignite a movement that empowers all Americans to give better care to AAPI Veterans and their military families?

Our research explored the history, behavioral psychology, and socioeconomics around caregiving for the AAPI veteran community. We worked with AAPI historians and veterans such as the author of the White House Commission Report on AAPIs in the U.S. Military, Dr. Ravi Chaudhary to gather data, stories, and research.

We had the challenge of ensuring representation across the AAPI community. We collaborated with The National Park Service, as well as non-profits and community influencers to source historical stories, archival footage, and photos. We collaborated with trusted community experts to ensure we created a balanced, accurate, and inclusive story. As many stories have yet to be told, it was important that our storytelling experience empowered communities to share more veteran stories.

We collaborated with NextDayBetter to design and execute the campaign. We leveraged their diverse network of community partners to source diverse stories and assets. Ultimately, the design philosophy for this campaign was anchored in creating inclusive stories that lead to collective, community action.

The campaign consisted of five videos and digital graphics:

1. "A Story of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in the United States Military" is an animated journey of the contributions, sacrifice, and courage of AAPIs in the U.S. Armed Forces at every turn: from the War of 1812, to the Afghanistan War, and beyond. We, highlighted pivotal AAPI heroes who helped win major wartime efforts, made a strong case for diversity and inclusivity as critical to military preparedness, and helped push America forward.

2. "From Refugee to Military Service: A Vietnamese American Story" recounts the story of Lt. Col. Lan Dalat, who came to America as a Vietnamese refugee. His tale humanizes AAPI refugees and their contributions to the U.S. Military.

3. Short Digital Videos on notable AAPI veterans were created to place real AAPI names and faces to the facts and figures that populate the rich history of AAPI history in the US Military, including:

---Felix Balderry, Filipino American, served during the Civil War under the Union Army.

---World War II Veteran Hazel Ying Lee, Chinese American Air Force pilot, broke gender and racial barriers in a segregated army.

---South Asian Dr. Bhagat Singh, South Asian of the Sikh faith, fought to be recognized as a U.S. citizen for his service in WWI.

All pieces ended with a call to action share stories and give care to all veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.


We built a narrative that defines the AAPI military and veteran experience as part of the American Story. Our digital campaign amassed over 1 Million impressions, over 750K views, and generated 810K engagement across all channels. We focused on activating earned media through AARP's digital channels and community partners' platforms to distribute stories with minimal media buys. Over 50 strategic Community Partners participated, including Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, American Veterans Hawaii, and Diverse Elders Coalition. AARP state offices in Hawaii, Washington, and Georgia shared our campaign with their online audiences. High-ranking AAPI veterans and military shared stories with AAPI and general market audiences.

We seek behavior shifts and attitudes for inclusive caregiving for all veterans. Facebook, as a platform, strengthens and facilitates AAPI diaspora connections and community building, amplifying our message and impact and reducing dependency on social media spends. Our impact is most visible through sparked online engagements and meaningful discussions. Our audience (both AAPI and Non-AAPI) who share stories of their veteran family members who served in World War II and other conflicts. Many share caregiving tips, policy recommendations, and reflections on giving care to our veterans, especially those facing healthcare inequity, homelessness, and PTSD. AAPI veterans express gratitude for finally being recognized for their sacrifice, courage, and service.

Community leaders will showcase these stories at gatherings for Asian Pacific American Month in May 2019, an example of their continued reach and impact, while we provide information and resources for veterans and caregiving.


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