The Royal British Legion has launched its poppy appeal to raise funds for the "Afghan generation" of the armed forces and their families, organisers say.
The launch began with a performance by girl group The Saturdays at a private concert at Colchester Garrison.
Organisers hope the appeal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will beat last year's total of £34m.
The Scottish Poppy appeal, run by Poppyscotland, will launch its own appeal in Dundee on Friday.
Prime Minister David Cameron bought his poppy from Royal British Legion members on the steps of No 10 Downing Street.
Bethan Herbert, from the charity, said younger people could relate to the appeal because they might have friends at war.
"There's not really a day that goes by without some story on the news or in the newspapers about the conflict in Afghanistan," she said.
"We wanted to show the British public, and the servicemen and women themselves, that we are there to support them as well as the older generation of servicemen and women."
The Saturdays performed for families of the soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade who are currently serving in Afghanistan.
The group gave an hour-long performance, which included their new single Higher, along with other hits Missing You and Just Can't Get Enough.
Saturdays' singer Mollie King said: "It's a complete honour to be asked. We always like to support the armed forces.
"They are doing such a good job, so for us to be able to help raise awareness, of course we were going to do it. We jumped at the chance."
A parachute display from the legion's human flight team, Jump4Heroes, landing next to the site where the first new personnel recovery centre will be built, was also scheduled for the launch.
Since 2003, the Royal British Legion has helped 10,000 serving and ex-serving members and their families who are part of the Iraq and Afghanistan generation.
It has committed £25m to the personnel recovery centres.