Decorated soldier Lt-Col Melanie Childs opens up on the importance of Poppy Day.

I am one of more than 30,000 New Zealanders to have served in operational deployments around the world since Vietnam. With service comes the potential to put ourselves in harm's way. That harm can take many forms – it can take a life, or it can take a lifetime.

I am proud to be an Ambassador for the RSA Poppy Appeal, which this year has a mental health theme – Not All Wounds Bleed – highlighting the fact battle wounds can be psychological as well as physical. Service-induced stress injuries are the most common but least understood of all wounds suffered by today's servicemen and women.

The Poppy Appeal assists the RSA to provide support services to current and former service men and women and their families. There's a growing demand for these services to help veterans with persistent psychological difficulties resulting from duties, either at home or as a result of operational deployments.


It can be difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't served what it's like, a life of military service and what comes with that, and even more challenging to explain how some of those experiences change us and our views of the world and even sometimes how we feel.

For a start, many of us don't feel like "veterans". We're the generations who have served since the end of the global conflicts last century and as a result, many of us don't feel worthy of the name veteran. To many of us, the term veteran is given to the likes of the first Anzacs and later generations who fought as part of the world wars. Those conflicts were so different to what many of us have experienced post-Vietnam.

Trench warfare is what most people imagine when they think of the Anzac soldier –the atrocious conditions our New Zealanders fought under on some of the famous battlefields of Gallipoli, the Somme and Passchendaele, to name a few. They served their country for freedom and did New Zealand proud.

Today, we have all witnessed a changing nature of conflict where there is no front line or clear enemy. These days, conflicts can be fought between conventional or irregular forces and in complex and dangerous environments.

Despite the significant changes we have seen in warfare over the years, there is one important similarity between all veterans and that's the challenge of transition. The transition of adjusting to life after operational service and the transition from military service to life on "civilian street" and out of the uniform.

The younger generation of service men and women - or modern veterans - must deal with many of the same life challenges of our Anzac legends. So many have experienced dangerous, stressful and personally distressing situations through their service for New Zealand, at home and abroad. These experiences affect both body and mind. Take my word for it, witnessing the suffering of colleagues, civilian men, women and children, can take its toll on anyone who witnesses it.

The essential support that the RSA is able to provide to veterans and their families to deal with these challenges and transitions is only made possible by the generosity of New Zealanders every April through the Poppy Appeal.

Poppy Day, on Friday April 20, is when we remember the impact of military service on our men and women in uniform and their families and show our respect for NZDF personnel serving around the world today.


The Poppy Appeal is a time for New Zealanders to recognise the dedication of our service personnel and give back to those who have made sacrifices and put their well-being at risk for others.

Lt-Col Melanie Childs is currently the Commanding Officer of the NZ Army's 2nd Combat Service Support Battalion located at Linton Army Camp. She was named the 2017 New Zealand Defence Force Person of the Year after taking charge of United Nations soldiers and police to lead people to safety through a battle zone in South Sudan.

NZME is an official media partner of this year's Pin a Poppy campaign. Visit to donate – including the option to get a $3 virtual poppy via text