SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (March 16, 2015) -- When Spc. Julian Turner's mother passed away in November 2014, she had to deal with not only the heartbreak of losing a loved one, but also the stress of settling that loved one's final affairs.

She reached out to her siblings, but they were also unable to help financially.

She contacted her mother's health insurance company, but they would not release the full amount of the policy.

Add to this, Turner, who works at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPMAA, still had a job to do, children to feed and send to school, and a household and husband that needed her attention.

"It felt like everyone was looking to me for answers," she said, but she was still processing her mother's death.

She finally explained her situation to her first sergeant, who suggested she turn to the Army Emergency Relief, or AER, Fund.

"I had heard of AER. I had even donated to them every year," she said. "But personally, I didn't like the idea of a loan for fear of being turned down or the uncomfortable sense of being criticized."

In the end, with the encouragement of her first sergeant, she did reach out to AER and received a loan that helped her to cover her expenses.

Turner shared her story during the 2015 AER kickoff ceremony, March 6, at the Nehelani, here, as part of an effort to spread the word about AER and the difference the program makes for Soldiers, who are experiencing financial duress, and to encourage Soldiers to donate to AER.

Turner was commended for reaching out to AER by Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, and senior commander of U.S. Army Hawaii, who noted that Soldiers may be reluctant to seek financial aid.

"So thank you for having the moral courage and the personal courage to stand up here and describe your story," Flynn said to Turner.

AER is the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization, dedicated to "helping the Army take care of its own," by making funds available to commanders to provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and eligible Family members where there is valid need. The financial assistance is made available in the form of interest-free loans, grants or a combination of loans and grants.

"For 73 years, AER has been making a difference by providing prompt emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their eligible Family members," Durr told the crowd. "Differences such as minimizing distractions caused by financial problems, which ultimately affect individual, unit and Army readiness."

Since its inception in 1942, AER has provided $1.7 billion in emergency relief to 3.3 million Soldiers, according to Charles E. Durr Jr., chief of assistance at AER Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and the keynote speaker at the kickoff event.

Durr encouraged those gathered to donate frequently to AER through as many venues as possible and to spread the word about AER.

"I can't emphasize enough the importance [of making AER] the Soldiers' first choice" for financial assistance, he said.

AER's Schofield office raised $271,578 during the 2014 AER campaign, said Gwen Galloway, Schofield AER officer. This year she hopes to raise at least $285,157.

The kickoff ceremony was followed by Right Arm Night, where attendees had the opportunity to donate to the AER.

The 2015 AER campaign, the theme of which is "Making a Difference," runs through May 15.

• Points of Contact

Call the Schofield Barracks AER Office at (808) 655-?4227.

Download the AER app via Google Play for Android devices or via iTunes for Apple devices.

To make an online donation, visit www.aerhq.org.

• Assistance

AER provides emergency financial assistance for the following:

•Car seats
•Cranial helmets
•Dependent dental care
•Emergency travel
•Essential furniture
•Food
•Funeral expenses
•Loss of funds
•Medical expenses
•Non-receipt of pay
•Rental vehicle
•Rent/Mortgage
•Repair/replacement of HVAC
•Repair/replacement of major appliances
•Replacement vehicle
•Travel fund for relocation (PCS)
•Utilities/deposits
•Vehicle repairs

AER does not provide emergency financial assistance for the following:

•Bad checks or payment of credit card bills
•Fines or legal expenses
•Liquidation or consolidation of debt
•Non-essentials
•Ordinary leave or vacation
•Purchase of home or home improvements