News: 71 years later: AER still helping soldiers
Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
KILLEEN, Texas - Soldiers, civilians and family members gathered for the signing of the 2013 Army Emergency Relief Campaign Proclamation at III Corps Headquarters, March 5.
AER is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1942 to provide financial assistance to active duty and retired soldiers and their families.
Brig. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, started the event off with his own testament of the importance of AER.
“I grew up in the Army supporting AER since I was a second lieutenant,” Richardson said. “This organization is important to us all, because of the support that it provides to our solders.”
This past year, AER provided service to more than 5,900 soldiers on the “Great Place,” the general noted.
“With this year’s slogan, ‘Supporting soldiers and their families, yesterday, today and tomorrow,’ Fort Hood’s goal is to raise over $500,000 dollars,” Richardson added. “With contributions and donations from members like you, we can reach our goal.”
AER provides assistance with emergency financial needs ranging from food, rent or utilities to grants for wounded soldiers during combat. Active-duty soldiers and their families, along with National Guard and Reserve soldiers, are all eligible. AER receives funding from service members, retirees and civilians.
The event’s guest speaker, Col. Guy Shields, retired, chief of communications and public affairs for AER in Alexandra, Va., informed the audience that AER has changed over the years.
“This isn’t your father’s AER program,” he said. “We’ve added nine new categories for soldiers ranging from dependent care, and rental car assistance while on emergency leave to replacement of furniture due to fires to cranial helmets for babies.”
With the chain of command involvement, AER has the capability to help soldiers in any situation.
“AER can be a vital tool for commanders to help take care of soldiers and their families,” Shields added.
One commander’s tool available is the AER command referral program, in which soldiers can go directly to their company commander or first sergeant to get approval for an AER loan up to $1,500.
“In times past, the chain of command would support a soldiers request for assistance, but AER would deny it,” Shields said. “With the command referral program, soldiers won’t run into that problem again.”
Regardless of the opportunities that AER offers financially strapped troops, the organization still relies heavily upon the soldiers to be its main contributors.
“Take the lead,” Richardson encouraged. “Get out front, and give a little to help our soldiers.”