Annual Pacific-wide AER fundraiser begins
March 3, 2014
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Feb. 28, 2014) -- The 2014 Army Emergency Relief (AER) fundraiser returned for another year of "helping the Army take care of its own" with a kickoff ceremony at the Nehelani, here, Monday.
The afternoon gathering signaled the beginning of this year's campaign to raise much-needed funds in support of AER and its efforts.
"As the Pacific-wide kickoff, it's only fitting that we do that here in Hawaii, where the greatest contributions are actually made on a yearly basis," said Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific, to a room full of Soldiers and distinguished guests, including Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, senior commander, U.S. Army-Hawaii, and commander, 25th Infantry Division.
"We have a pattern of always outdoing ourselves from one year to the next," Brooks said, noting that last year Hawaii contributed more than $350,000 to the AER fund.
"Added to contributions by others at other places, that equaled more than $4 million in grants, in loans, in relief to our Army family around the globe. That's a pretty amazing return," he said. "You're beneficiaries of this as well as contributors to this. This is taking care of our own."
Incorporated into the Army in February 1942, AER is an emergency-relief program that assists Army personnel and their families in times of financial difficulty.
Since 9/11, AER has distributed nearly $775 million to 729,000 active and retired Soldiers and their ohana through interest-free loans and grants for many different categories of assistance, to include emergency needs, children and spouse scholarships, care for families of fallen Soldiers, and support to widows and wounded warriors.
"It's a widespread system that?'s available to Soldiers and families," said retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, director, AER, and keynote speaker for Monday's kickoff, here. "In the past five years, we've provided $80 million a year, so we know that we're meeting the financial needs of Soldiers and families."
While financial assistance for AER is conducted within the Army structure by mission and garrison commanders, the private nonprofit relies solely on donations to provide loans to individuals and families who find themselves in monetary distress.
"Some people think (AER) is only for simple things, like emergency travel, initial rent deposits, vehicle repair, but we do so many more things," said Foley, who served in Vietnam with the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, "Wolfhounds," 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID.
"It's a broad mission that we have, and I think from time to time it's important for us to come and create that awareness with the commanders and the sergeants major and the spouses, who can pass (the message of AER) on to the Soldiers, so they don't end up going to payday (loan) lenders," he explained. "It gets the Soldiers and the leaders caught up in the spirit of what Army Emergency Relief is all about, and that is to take care of Soldiers?' financial needs, should a situation come up."
While Foley's words highlighted the importance of AER, the true impact of its reach came when several Soldiers took the stage to share their personal experiences with the program.
One of the speakers, Staff Sgt. Gabriel Cambran of Company B, 2-27th Inf. Regt., recalled when his family's vehicle broke down following an unfortunate run-in with a pothole.
"This program was an answer to our prayers. With a simple and easy application process, my wife and I were able to get the funds we needed to repair the truck and get our lives back on track the very next day, even with me being overseas," he said.
"Because of how great AER has been to my family and so many others, I do everything I can to educate young Soldiers on AER and their benefits," Cambran added. "And when AER donations come around every year, I make sure that everybody that wants to can donate their money to help other Soldiers in need, because you never know, one day you may need assistance."