The Poppy Appeal funds support past and present service personnel and their families.
The words "war veteran" evoke images of aged, grey-haired men full of battle secrets they will never share and often with scars they cannot talk about.
But there are many other veterans, some aged in their 20s and 30s, who need just as much support as their elder comrades.
Donations this year to the Returned and Services' Association annual Poppy Appeal were the highest ever, and $2.5 million was raised. Money raised in the appeal is used to help past and present service personnel and their families.
Support services manager Mark Compain said it was important to change the perception that the RSA was there to support only old soldiers and let people know younger veterans were also helped.
At 45 Mr Compain is a veteran of Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan.
"The number of veterans in New Zealand is growing, particularly as my generation of returned and service people age. Our health issues are starting to become apparent," he said.
"I went to Bosnia in 1995. When I got home I was a veteran. I was younger than my grandfather was when he returned from World War II.
"The perception that a veteran is someone old is incorrect."
Mr Compain said older vets suffered physical injuries but these days, even with peacekeeping missions being the most common overseas assignments for our troops, post-traumatic stress disorder was prevalent.
"I have a friend who was in the first push to East Timor. He had to recover the bodies of teenage girls who had been molested and thrown into a well. Can you imagine? People have this view of peace keeping that it's all about helping out and building schools but that's not the entire picture.
"These days there are completely different health issues. The nature of conflict has changed as has the environment. There is less wounding, fewer limbs getting shot off and more illness due to environment al exposure. But PTSD remains significant.
"Thousands of us who served have seen terrible things, have done terrible things and we have suffered. Veterans are going to continue to be made and to continue ageing."
The money raised in the Poppy Appeal is used to help veterans financially as well as with medical and other health needs. Families of veterans and service men and women who have never been sent overseas are also looked after.
Mr Compain said continuing to support the cause was vital.
"Today we are producing more veterans than any time since the end of World War II, so the RSA is just as relevant today as it ever was," he said.
"Our support is available to all current service and ex-service personnel - with or without operational service - and their families, including those still serving in the New Zealand Defence Force."
RSA chief executive David Moger said this year's record donations were partially due to Gallipoli centenary commemorations.
He thanked the public, volunteer collectors including defence force personnel and businesses that backed the appeal including NZME.
The company, which owns the Herald, started the Pinapoppy appeal, inviting people to pin a virtual poppy on their social media profiles.
This year $2.5 million was donated to the RSA during the annual Poppy Appeal, the most ever collected.
The RSA's volunteer support staff work with thousands of people from World War II veterans to those who served in more recent conflicts as well as those still in the Defence Force today.
- NZ Herald
Read the original NZ Herald article here.