FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 27, 2014) -- Soldiers helping Soldiers has always been Army Emergency Relief's goal in everything it does, and this year's campaign is no different.

The 2014 AER fundraising campaign will run Mar. 1 through May 15, with a kickoff celebration at the Army Aviation Museum Mar. 4 at 2 p.m., and carry the theme "A Soldiers' First Choice," said Maj. Anthony Whittaker, Fort Rucker AER campaign coordinator.

"The biggest message we want to send out, besides reinforcing what AER is and what it does for Soldiers, is that we want for them to come to Army Community Service when they have a financial need or dire emergency," he said. "We'd rather have them come to us than search out predatory lenders, many of which have hidden fees and enormous annual percentage rates. We need them to know that we're here for them -- we need to be their first choice."

Throughout the campaign period, many fundraising events will be held to not only raise money for the campaign, but promote awareness, said Whittaker.

"The biggest thing we want to get across is that this is a program for Soldiers," he said. "We want to be able to publicize procedures, so that they understand that they can come and get AER assistance.

"It's not always that they're in a dire emergency, but things do arise that are unexpected and it's great to have an organization like AER that Soldiers can come to knowing that there are people here who have their best interests at hand," he continued. "AER will take all the means necessary to assist with and alleviate the stress of financial burdens."

Two of the most popular events held throughout the campaign season are the Army Aviation Center Credit Union Golf Tournament to benefit AER, and the Jail-A-Thon put on by the 6th Military Police Detachment.

The golf tournament is held every year and proceeds go to benefit AER, said Whittaker. This year's tournament will be held April 25 at Silver Wings Golf Course during which people will participate in teams to compete for prizes.

The Jail-A-Thon, one of Fort Rucker's most popular fundraising events will return to give people the opportunity to have their coworkers, spouses and even bosses arrested for a donation, said Whittaker. The cost to have people arrested depends on their rank or pay grade.

Upon being issued an arrest warrant, the accused will be taken to a makeshift jail, and sentenced in front of a judge and ordered to either serve time or post bail.

These two events are some of AER's fundraisers, but donations are welcome through any avenue throughout the campaign season, said the campaign coordinator.

"Since 9/11, almost $800 million has been distributed to Soldiers and their Families in the form of interest-free loans, grants and scholarships to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers," said retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, AER director, in a press release. "In the first four years, nine new categories of assistance have been added to include dependent care, replacement vehicles, heating, ventilation and air conditioning and appliance repair, rental vehicles, relocation travel, cranial helmets and infant car seats."

In addition to the theme, extra emphasis is being placed on spouses this year recognizing that spouses make daily Family financial decisions, especially when their Soldiers are deployed, according to the press release.

Soldiers needing AER financial assistance can contact their unit chain of command or go directly to Fort Rucker's AER office in Bldg. 5700.

For more information, call 255-2341.