By Trish Muntean, Fort Wainwright PAOApril 15, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - "Army Emergency Relief is a great thing for soldiers in need," said Pfc. Christopher Regalado.
When Regalado, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division lost his home and everything in it to a fire a few weeks ago, he learned many valuable lessons. One of those lessons was that the Army does indeed take care of its own, through AER.
"The fire department wasn't even off the scene yet, and the help was already rolling in," Regalado said.
"I had to figure out everything for my family. Where were we going to stay' What are they going to wear' What are we going to eat'" Regalado said an AER loan helped meet his immediate needs. "AER helped with that, the loan that I got helped with everything. It helped with food, it helped with clothing, it helped with basic necessities."
The AER Website explains that "AER is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to active Soldiers, retirees, Reserve and National Guard members and their families through interest-free loans, grants, scholarships and more. It also provides assistance for surviving spouses and children of Soldiers killed in action."
AER can provide help with emergency financial needs for:
*Food, rent or utilities
*Emergency transportation and vehicle repair
*Personal needs when pay is delayed or stolen
*Give undergraduate-level education scholarships, based primarily on financial need, to children of soldiers
Staff Sgt. Lukeldic Harris, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division encountered multiple problems en-route to Fort Wainwright . While driving through Canada with his wife and seven children, his engine died leaving him and his family stranded for 14 days. He got a loan from AER to pay for a new engine and lodging for his family until they could get on the road again.
He received AER assistance a second time upon arriving at Fort Wainwright. He used it to pay for expenses incurred settling in to a new community, for car repairs and a car rental, as just a short time after getting on the road again, he hit a moose.
Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Wentland, garrison command sergeant major said that "Army Emergency Relief is a great program that allows Soldiers to receive no-interest loans to take care of emergency problems. AER is available to all Soldiers and Army retirees, but primarily it helps young families take care of those unforeseen issues that would otherwise put them in serious jeopardy."
AER also provides scholarships to spouses and dependent children based on need.
AER is currently conducting its annual fund-raising campaign. The goal for the Fort Wainwright military community is $150,000, but it is even more important to make contact with 100 percent of the Soldiers so they know what AER has to offer.
"AER is a tool available for Soldiers to get on top of the unforeseen financial problems. If you have a true need, seek assistance through AER before the problem becomes overwhelming," Wentland said.
"AER has been a great benefit to many young Soldiers who have had emergency travel,"
Wentland said. "Airfare out of Alaska is expensive. If your travel doesn't qualify as emergency leave and you need to fly home for an unexpected requirement, AER can be very useful."
Curtis White, AER officer said "approximately $133,000 was collected last year during the campaign. Most of the funds collected were from deployed Soldiers in Iraq."
"There were 227 AER cases funded in 2009 totaling $262,824.00 in loans and grants. Most of the assistance in 2009 was given to family members of deployed Soldiers in Iraq," White said. "That number also does not include the after-hour support for assistance provided by the American Red Cross on behalf of AER during the times AER is closed. We estimate approximately $40,000 in assistance was provided in 2009 during after duty hours."
Wentland encourages all Soldiers to donate to AER. "Everyone that has the capability to support should. Soldiers supporting Soldiers is another way to build the Army team and improve the quality of life for fellow Soldiers."