FORT SILL, Okla. (April 25, 2013) -- Staff Sgt. Julie Hopson with the Warriors Transition Unit knows how helpful the Army Emergency Relief program is for Soldiers and has been informing Soldiers about it, but never expected to experience it first-hand.

Hopson's home mortgage was due at the end of December and she had the $1,000. But then in a day -- really a phone call -- everything changed.

"My dad got sick and I had to take emergency leave and take my family to Hope, Arkansas, to be by my dad's side," said Hopson. "I spent more than $1,000 to be there when he was ill. When we got back on the 29th of December, I had a note of more than $1,000 that was due the next day."

Hopson said she didn't want to go to a loan company and pay high interest rates so she did what she had encouraged other Soldiers to do for years as a command financial adviser -- she went to see Cynthia Phillips-Lewis, Army Community Service Financial Readiness specialist.

"I was trained as a command financial adviser when I was stationed with 95th Adjutant General, and I continued as the unit-level CFA when stationed with 434th Field Artillery Brigade, so I already knew about the Army Emergency Relief program and how it works," said Hopson.

Hopson said she went to Phillips-Lewis and the next day she had a check in hand to pay the mortgage payment. "Cynthia told me to give her a day and when I came back the next day, she put the check in my hand five minutes after I walked in," said Hopson.

"Our goal is to assist Soldiers and family members with financial issues that need to be resolved. This is done through AER interest-free loans or grants. In all cases the form of assistance is determined by the Soldier's individual circumstances," said Phillips-Lewis.

"Army Emergency Relief assistance is available to Soldiers and their families, wherever they are located and the amount of assistance is only limited by a valid need. Soldiers and their family members requiring Army Emergency Relief assistance can contact their unit chain of command or go to their local installation AER office," said Phillips-Lewis. "We can assist Soldiers with paying utilities, vehicle repair, dependent dental care, cranial helmets, funeral expenses and much more."

Hopson said she received an interest-free loan and has up to 12 months to pay it back. "I'm paying back the loan and I have time to pay it without cutting into our family budget. Going through AER gave me peace of mind," she said.

Hopson has contributed for many years to the AER Campaign, which assists Soldiers and family members with financial needs through interest-free loans and grants. "I encourage other Soldiers to contribute as well and I definitely think Soldiers should learn more about the campaign and how AER is here to help them," she added.

The AER campaign runs through May 15 and is conducted every year to create greater awareness of Army Emergency Relief programs and benefits; and to give Soldiers the opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers.

"Raising awareness of Army Emergency Relief benefits is the critical first step in providing Soldiers much-needed access to Army Emergency Relief assistance. Our goal is to ensure that no Soldier or family member is disadvantaged in time of financial need because they did not fully appreciate the benefits of Army Emergency Relief," said Phillips-Lewis.

According to Zilpa Oseguera, AER officer, there is no appointment necessary to visit the AER office. "We do it on a walk-in basis," she said. "For Soldiers, the command financial advisers are available at unit level to assist with any request for financial assistance."

Established in response to a need for financial assistance by Soldiers and their families during World War II, Army Emergency Relief provides emergency financial assistance in the form of interest-free loans or outright grants. In addition Army Emergency Relief provides scholarships to children and spouses of active duty and retired Soldiers, financial support to surviving families of Fallen Soldiers, and grants to widows and Wounded Warriors.

According to Phillips-Lewis, in 2012 Army Emergency Relief provided a total of $76.8 million to more than 59,000 Soldiers and their families. The Command Referral Program company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve AER loans to their Soldiers up to $1,500.

The Fort Sill AER Office is at the Welcome Center, 4700 Mow-Way Road. The number is 580-442-4916. The AER Office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

In addition, Soldiers and families not near an Army Installation AER office can seek assistance from at Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard installations through the Air Force Aid Society, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, respectively, or from local chapters of the American Red Cross throughout the United States.

Full details on Army Emergency Relief's assistance programs may be found on the web at www.aerhq.org

Page last updated Thu April 25th, 2013 at 00:00