AER Campaign begins: Service-wide fundraising effort helps Soldiers, families in need
Staff Sgt. Jes L. Smith, 16th MPAD:
With the presentation of a giant $5,000 check, the 2013 Fort Bliss Army Emergency Relief campaign officially kicked off at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center, here, Feb. 6.
Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, graciously received the large donation for the Fort Bliss AER campaign from the Dallas Military Ball Foundation.
Each year, the Army runs a service-wide fundraising campaign, usually starting in February or early March and lasting for roughly a month, to collect donations for AER. Fort Bliss’ campaign is scheduled to go through the second week of April.
The non-profit program serves as the Army’s financial assistance organization by providing interest-free loans and grants to Soldiers both active and retired, as well as their family. The organization’s motto is “Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own” and is funded mainly by donations.
“Last year, Fort Bliss donated nearly $250,000 and received back over $4 million in interest-free loans and grants,” said Pittard. “For every dollar that we put in, we received $16 back. That’s huge. All that money went to the benefit of Soldiers and their families. I would encourage everyone to give to the Army Emergency Relief fund.”
For most military ceremonies, the presentation of a giant $5,000 check to a “two-star general” would be the highlight of the day, but this year’s kickoff-attendees also had the privilege to hear from a true military hero, medal of honor recipient Army retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, who received his medal for actions in combat during the Vietnam War.
Foley, the AER national director, visited as part of a tour to various Army posts, kicking off the national AER campaign.
During his speech, Foley focused on how all leaders at all levels should encourage their Soldiers to take advantage of AER to assist their Soldiers.
“AER is the best way to ensure that when Soldiers and family members experience financial shortfalls – someone is there to help them get the help they need,” said Foley.
Foley said the one constant with Soldiers and family members experiencing a sudden financial burden is they will always find a way to get the money needed, but that it is the responsibility of Army leadership and the folks at AER to help determine how they get it.
He went on to say that with AER, Soldiers will never be charged any interest or service fees on money borrowed, whereas an outside organization could charge upwards of 100 to 300 percent interest on top of additional fees.
“The motto that we have for all our AER [lending] officers is to always find a way to say ‘yes,’ and to not let the Soldier or family member go away until they have said yes as well,” said Foley. “The last thing we want is for them to go out and get the money they need short-term by taking on long-term debt.”
For more information, visit www.aerhq.org or call 744-2259.
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