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New Zealand Veterans

New Zealand Veterans

Posted by Lynette Townsend on 22nd Apr 2024

We first started thinking about how best to acknowledge Aotearoa New Zealand’s post World War Two veterans in 2019. William Russell, who had served in the Malayan Emergency (1948 – 1960), and a Veterans’ Affairs representative, met with us to discuss the idea that NZ Post might commemorate veterans beyond the World War 100 commemorations and the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Our conversations focused on the shared experiences of veterans, both the World War Two veterans who are often the focus at Anzac Day, and those who served in New Zealand’s Army, Navy and Air Force more recently. We discussed how all veterans have been through a range of shared experiences. Beginning with military training, all have then departed from New Zealand to serve overseas. All have made a massive sacrifice for their country and spent time away from family and friends, and all have been through a major, often traumatic, and life-changing experience. Finally, most have returned home to resume life here.

Our initial attempt to create a set of stamps was quashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2023, we picked up the project again and began discussions with Veterans’ Affairs, the NZDF and the RSA. We came to the decision to focus the stamp issue on veterans who were all deployed from 1995 or later, and specifically veterans who had received the New Zealand Operational Service Medal – depicted on the miniature sheet, the first day cover and the ribbon of which forms the backdrop for the stamps.

To receive this medal, veterans must have served in a dangerous place, one which the Government deems as having a significantly greater risk than peacetime activities. There are about 42,000 New Zealand veterans who fall into this category, but many are much younger than the World War Two veterans that may initially come to mind, they might be a woman or a man, and they come from many different cultural backgrounds. They could be your neighbour, workmate or someone you pass in the street. They may have left military service, and all have pursued new careers just like the veterans depicted in the stamps, but at one time in their ordinary lives they did something extraordinary for their country.

The veterans in these stamps can all tell of instances when members of the public have told them that they aren’t veterans because they didn’t go to war. These comments and broadly held perceptions make it difficult for them to discuss their service and ask for support because in part, they also believe that they aren’t veterans.

Veterans’ Affairs hosted a special event to celebrate the stamp release and thank all the veterans involved in the project. For the NZ Post team it was the first time we had met the veterans face-to-face. By now their photographs were very familiar, and I think it’s fair to say we were all in awe meeting them for the first time. We were struck by their humility and their generosity of spirit, and we were moved to know that the stamps help to validate their experiences and will contribute to veterans feeling valued and supported.

It’s our hope that this stamp release not only helps to show how appreciated New Zealand’s veterans are, but also to raise awareness that veterans can be anyone, and finally to help spread awareness of the support available to them. To find out more visit

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