Seeing children swimming, climbing and laughing together at Camp Legacy makes Tina Grant smile.

Her husband Douglas Grant, an SAS corporal, died in a firefight in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 18, 2011.

Herself a serving soldier, Grant worried how she and her two children would carry on. Now she is helping others like her as the New Zealand Defence Force's liaison officer for families of the fallen.

Grant discovered Camp Legacy, for children of servicemen and women killed in the line of duty, at a conference in Australia in 2013.


She was invited to experience it first-hand, but had to pay for her children, 13-year-old Jemma and 11-year-old Jaden, to get there in 2015.

"Immediately, I thought, 'Whoa this is amazing'," Grant said.

The following year, she secured funding from the Fallen Heroes Trust to get her children and another child to the annual camp in Busselton, about 200km south of Perth.

The camp welcomes the children of fallen military service people from Australia and New Zealand for a 10-day shared experience.

Children aged 6-17 can "mix and mingle, share and cry but ultimately have fun together" through testing day trips and activities, including rock climbing, caving, physical training, horse riding, swimming and tramping.

Soldiers from the Australian SAS Regiment help run the camp, which has been going since the 1960s.

The children's time away also offers the chance for widows, widowers and caregivers to have a break.

For Grant, the benefits for her Jemma and Jaden are enormous.

"The children were amongst like-minded children who had experienced losing their dads," she said.

"The children spoke about their dads on a regular basis and were proud of what they had done."

Through recent campaigns in places such as Afghanistan, New Zealanders have again experienced the loss of servicemen and women on overseas deployments.

Ten soldiers died during the 12 years of deployments to Afghanistan: Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, Private Kirifi Mila, Corporal Douglas Hughes, Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, Lance Corporal Rory Malone, Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris all died in Bamiyan Province. Corporal Douglas Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith from the NZSAS regiment died in Kabul.

Their loss is felt most keenly by the families they leave behind. Families like the Grants.

Jemma Grant established strong friendships over three visits to Camp Legacy, and is now a mentor to another Kiwi girl who lost her father in combat.

"It was her first experience of being surrounded with children who had lost their parents," said Grant, who is also an RSA Poppy Ambassador.

"For my son it was an opportunity to be with other boys of a similar age, to talk and play and reunite with old friends.

"This year my son was proud to speak out in a large group about his dad and to be proud of his sacrifice to 'rescue some British people before he was killed'. His words to me at the formal dinner were, 'Mum we are talking about how our dads died and what they were doing, cool eh?"'

Grant, who plans to create a similar camp in New Zealand, takes comfort from meeting other children who have lost a parent and seeing them coping well with life.

She has also met widows of members of the Australian SAS to share experiences and swap stories.

How you can help

Today, NZME, publisher of the Herald is asking for your help for Kiwi children like Jemma and Jaden Grant.

In the run-up to Anzac Day, we'll publish a series of stories highlighting the work of the RSA and the benefits of Camp Legacy.

And we'll ask for donations to the RSA-Herald Poppy Appeal. All proceeds will help send children to Camp Legacy.

There are three ways to donate.

Our Pin A Poppy appeal gives you the chance to get a virtual poppy so you can show you remember to care. In return for a small donation via text or GrabOne, NZME's daily deals site, you can download a digital poppy to use as your profile image or share on your social media accounts.

Alternatively, you can make a donation by using the coupon from the newspaper, although you won't get a digital poppy.

The appeal is separate from, but complementary to, the RSA's national poppy appeal.