FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker kicked off its annual Army Emergency Relief campaign during a ceremony in The Landing March 2.
Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general and speaker at the event, said the AER campaign is among his favorites.
“I think that’s because it is by far the most impactful way that we impact our Soldiers – Soldiers Helping Soldiers,” he said. “That’s what AER has been doing for over 80 years. We do this to make sure that our Soldiers can focus on the task at hand in front of them.
“Whether that is having it to pay for groceries for their family because they had some unforeseen financial event, or paying to get a loved one or themselves home for a family emergency, or striving for a better way of life for their family by sending their spouses to college,” Francis added. “That is what AER does – it provides resources to our families to do that.”
The AER Campaign will run through May 15. The nonprofit organization was incorporated into the Army by the secretary of the war and the chief of staff of the Army in 1942 to support Soldiers and family members facing financial hardships, according to the AER website.
In the last 80 years, AER has provided $2 billion to nearly 4 million Soldiers, including $1 billion since 9/11. The organization is solely based on donations, and Soldiers can utilize those funds for an array of reasons.
According to the AER website, the organization can help with: emergency travel; natural disaster preparation and evacuation; mortgage, rent and initial deposit; temporary lodging; food; health care not covered by TRICARE; vehicle costs; utilities; funeral expenses; and basic essential furniture.
“It alleviates (Soldiers’) unexpected financial hardships so that they don’t have to take on additional debt by relying on the off-post, high-interest rate sources – providing a fiscally responsible alternative to the temptation of turning to payday loans, rent to owns, or pawn shops when they need money urgently,” Francis said. “The assistance provided by AER comes in the form of a zero-interest loan or possibly a grant. The goal is to make AER the Soldier’s first choice for unexpected financial hardships.”
Last year alone at Fort Rucker, 79 active duty and retired Soldiers and their family members and survivors received almost $190,000 in emergency assistance, the general said, adding that almost $17,000 was provided as grants. “This would not have been possible without the hard work of leaders and emergency relief coordinators like all of you in here today.”
In addition to helping with unforeseen financial hardships, AER has secondary mission of providing scholarships to spouses and children of Soldiers. The scholarship program provides undergraduate education scholarships based on financial need for children, spouses, and orphans and widows of active duty and retired Soldiers, according to AER officials.
“I can tell you that it is a magnificent program, and within the Wiregrass here we had 12 spouses and 68 children that benefitted this school year receiving more than $311,000 in scholarship assistance,” Francis said. “Again, that would not be possible without the team in this room helping us to get AER moving.”
Last year, the Fort Rucker community supported the program with a little more than $110,000 during its campaign, but in turn received more $500,000 in support. With that in mind, the general said he’d like everyone to give generously to the worthy cause.
“The mission for commanders and AER representative is to ensure that 100% of the Soldiers and civilians on Fort Rucker have been offered the opportunity to donate to AER,” Francis said. “AER is about Soldiers taking care of Soldiers, and I give my thanks to our AER lead this year and all of the AER leaders in the units out there. Our Soldiers and our families here at Fort Rucker, they are the ones who truly benefit from your work during this campaign.”
The All-In Federal Credit Union will, as it has for the past 31 years, organize a golf scramble tournament to raise funds for AER May 6 at Silver Wings Golf Course, according to Capt. Peter Blickhahn, Fort Rucker 2022 AER campaign coordinator. Last year’s tournament raised $30,000.
“AER is about Soldiers Helping Soldiers. It’s what we all do!” the captain added.
To donate to AER, people should contact their unit coordinator, or donate online https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/.