By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Public AffairsMarch 24, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (March 24, 2014) -- It's been more than 70 years since the Army Emergency Relief was incorporated, but the mission hasn't changed -- to provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their families.
This year's Army Emergency Relief, or AER, campaign, which started March 1, and runs through May 15, is intended to raise money from the community, which is then provided as interest-free loans and grants for military personnel in need.
And the success of the organization stems directly from community support.
"The main motto of the campaign is called' Soldiers helping Soldiers,'" said Marianne Hoffman, an Army Emergency Relief officer for Army Community Service. "I think a lot of Soldiers think they will never be in a situation where they might need this service, but we are here when they do."
First Sgt. James Yuras, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, was one of those Soldiers.
The motto became very apparent to Yuras in 1997, when he and his wife lost a child.
They did not have the financial resources set aside to pay for the funeral and burial arrangements, so Yuras reached out to AER.
"Financial hardship is one of the biggest stressors in a home," said Yuras. "AER can help relieve some of the financial challenges families face when unexpected emergencies arise."
Yuras stresses to his Soldiers the importance of both donating to the cause and asking for help if burdened with unexpected financial challenges.
"Don't be too proud or afraid to ask," he said, adding that supporting the community is the goal of AER.
Since 1942, AER has helped more than 3.2 million Soldiers, retirees and family members by providing more than $1.5 billion in aid, including more than $620,000 within the Bavaria Military Community footprint last year alone.
Broad categories of AER assistance include emergency travel, privately owned vehicle repair, rent, utilities, medical/dental expenses, funerals, relocation funds, HVAC repair, repair or replacement of stoves and refrigerators, car seats, dependent dental care, basic furniture needs, rental cars and replacement vehicles, as well as educational scholarship and support.
Additionally, AER supported both the Spouse Scholarship Program and the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program for dependent children last year, by awarding 4,629 scholarships, totaling more than $10 million across the Army.
The scholarship application period is currently open until May 1. Scholarship specifics and the applications are available at http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/Scholarships/DependentChildren.aspx.
While AER is charitable in its support to the community, the generosity goes both ways. Last year, the BMC alone donated over $90,000.
"Soldiers face so many missions and tests every day, the last thing they should worry about is financial stress," said Hoffman.
Each unit and organization provides an AER representative for more information on the campaign and to donate. Information can also be found at www.aerhq.org.