On March 14 the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall community kicked off its annual Army Emergency Relief campaign at the JBM-HH Dining Facility. The campaign runs through May 15 with a goal of raising $100,000.

Dan Furlano, the JBM-HH Army Community Services director, thanked those in attendance for coming out to the kickoff.

"It's a big deal," he said. "Just so you know, last year Army Emergency Relief helped 41,000 Soldiers and Families, gave $61 million in assistance in addition to $9 million in scholarships."

First Sgt. Jonathan Antonetti, the first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, provided the opening remarks for the kick off. He pointed out that AER started as a nonprofit organization in 1942.

"(AER) is to help Soldiers help the Families -- to help our entire community in those moments of emergency," said Antonetti. "Everybody goes through those moments of emergency situation and AER is going to help. You can get a (free) grant or (interest-free) loan. They will set comfortable payments to pay it back. ACS has all kind of services to help Soldiers get into a better position."

Antonetti added that when he was a young Soldier, he wished someone would have told him about the services that are available at ACS such as money management.

Last year, Antonetti said, the base goal of $100,000 was surpassed and the base was $8 short of raising $144,000.

The guest speaker, retired Lt. Col. Roosevelt Samuel, pointed out the importance of having AER representatives to explain to Soldiers what's available.

Samuel served 28 years in the Army and contributed to AER for 28 years. Samuel added that he increased the amount of the contribution when he became a leader.

"There are very few organizations that have a system in place to take care of their employees, but the Army does that," said Samuel.

Like others before him, Samuel was on the receiving end when tragedy struck his family.

"My last year in the Army I got a phone call from my brother in Toronto," he explained. "He told me that my sister and (her) daughter (were) hit by a drunk driver. I had to drop everything and drive down to Atlanta to take care of my sister and my niece. Unfortunately, my sister passed away from her injuries. All of a sudden, I had to take care of my sister's burial and get my niece through her recovery.

"In 28 years of contributing I had never thought about using AER. But when the financial burden dropped out of the sky on me, it's time to put your ego and everything behind you and come to the organization that will take of you and not say, 'hey, you are a lieutenant colonel you should have more than enough money to take care of that.' That never happened and I offer that will never happen."

Sgt. Shanterria Marshall who works in the DFAC said, AER helped her about two years ago when she gained custody of her sister and brother when her grandmother passed away. Marshall didn't have the money to pay for a last-minute flight and someone told her to visit AER.

"They took care of me (and) checked on me when I got home to make sure I was good," explained Marshall. "They asked me how my family was doing. I can't say thank you enough. They have helped my Soldiers as well."

Spc. Nealis Giggetts also works in the DFAC and he talked about his experience with having to use AER. When Giggetts moved to JBM-HH from another installation he had to rely on the money he had saved for the move, which included food and lodging. Prior to departing, Giggetts wasn't informed about housing or the amount of money that would be needed during a permanent change of station.
During his finance briefing someone explained how AER was available to help him and his Family with money for a security deposit.

"Not only did they give me money for a security deposit, they helped me pay off the hotel fees," he said.

Closing remarks were provided by Trina Reliford, the AER officer. She encouraged Soldiers to use AER's services instead using services outside the gate.

"Everyone has emphasized this is a no-interest loan and we set up your budget plan … sometimes your assistance may be done in a combination of a loan and a grant," explained Reliford.

For more information about AER, call (703) 696-0159 or email Reliford at trina.s.reliford.civ@mail.mil.