By Mrs. Dawn Arden (Fort Wood)March 14, 2014
Fort Leonard Wood's Army Community Service kicked off the 2014 Army Emergency Relief fundraising campaign with a breakfast ceremony Thursday at the Pershing Community Center.
With the donation goal set for $250,000, the AER campaign will run through May 31.
Last year, AER assisted 617 military members, retirees and survivors in the Fort Leonard Wood area alone, totaling more than $753,782 in assistance provided.
Col. William Pfeffer, Garrison commander, pointed out that through the efforts of the Fort Leonard Wood AER staff, the number of grants given have increased by 300 percent during the past year.
The guest speaker for the event was retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, AER director and Medal of Honor recipient, who stressed the importance of starting with the individual commands to get the word out to Soldiers on how the program can benefit them.
"We can't do anything unless Soldiers and Family members come forward and make a request," Foley said.
Foley also emphasized the need for Fort Leonard Wood to get more involved in the Command Referral Program, where company commanders and first sergeants can approve requests up to $1,500 without having to send the Soldier to AER for assistance.
"The frontlines of the Command Referral Program are at the company and battery level; that's where it has to happen. That's where the emphasis has to take place," Foley said.
Foley also spoke of the feared stigma attached to making requests through AER.
"The issue here is, command information is going to change this, but you've got to start it now," Foley said. "The Army Emergency Relief fund is Soldiers' money -- it doesn't belong to anybody but Soldiers."
Pfeffer summed up the program, "AER is our formations giving back to our formations. Taking care of the troops that we're responsible for, their Families and retirees."
For more information on Fort Leonard Wood's AER program, contact Chuck Mathews, AER officer, at 596.0212 or stop by Army Community Service in Bldg. 486.