The RSA is this week running its annual Poppy Appeal – with its theme 'Not All Wounds Bleed' shining a focus on the non-physical injuries veterans and their families face. NZME is an official media partner of the RSA's campaign
Tiny Elijah North has inherited his parents' courage and fighting spirit.
The two-year-old suffers from microcephaly, a rare brain disorder that means his head is significantly smaller than normal and means he can't yet walk or talk.
When his parents, Laura and Tane North, both captains in the NZ Army, heard of a remarkable treatment programme available in Australia, they knew they had to make it happen.
But with a price tag of $10,000, not including flights and accommodation, the Norths needed help getting there.
So the Returned and Services' Association (RSA) donated $10,000 from his Poppy Appeal funds and the Auckland RSA chipped in another $5000.
Elijah, who turns 3 in June, was back at the Neurological and Physical Abilitation Centre in Sydney in January for his second round of intensive three-week treatment.
He undergoes four-hour sessions during his time at the specialist centre, which includes occupational and feeding therapy, and two-hour blocks of balance exercises.
His progress has been "life-changing," says mum Laura who is based at Trentham Military Camp.
"On the last day of our three weeks there, Elijah had managed to move himself 1cm forward on his arms. Since then, he can easily move right across the lounge, dragging himself forward on his arms. It's massively exciting," said the 32-year-old.
Elijah is due back in June and it's hoped that his father, Tane, a 38-year-old Army captain currently on a 12-month deployment overseas, will be able to meet the family, along with the couple's two other children Ellamae, 10, and TJ, 5, in Sydney.
The Norths say the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has offered generous support. Laura has reduced her hours to part-time four days a week now to enable her to take Elijah to medical appointments.
And the Sydney trips continue to be funded through RSA Poppy Appeal money and donations from the wider Defence Force, including NZDF Golf which recently chipped in $10,000,
"We feel very humbled," Laura said.
"Without the RSA and poppies, we probably would never have made it. We had no idea what it was really like but once we got there, we were amazed, it was literally life-changing."
• NZME is an official media partner of this year's Pin A Poppy campaign. Visit www.pinapoppy.co.nz to donate – including the option to get a $3 virtual poppy via text