• Army Emergency Relief campaign kicks off

  • The AER campaign runs through May 15.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Imagine a 19-year-old private going on his first temporary duty assignment, thinking there was no need to worry about whether or not he was going to be paid. But then, the next month comes and there is a “no pay due” in his records. All the while, this private is newly married with a newborn baby, living on fast food chicken from his brother-in-law’s place of work.
    Such was the situation for Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Williams in the 1990s. When another soldier noticed Williams’ situation, he brought it to the attention of their platoon sergeant. Williams eventually found help from Army Emergency Relief.
    “What a blessing,” Williams said. “To this day, I’ve been married 26 years to the same woman, and I believe it is because AER prevented us from eating any more Church’s Chicken.
    “This is why I believe and am passionate about Army Emergency Relief. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of making AER the soldier’s first choice in financial assistance,” he said. “(AER) is dedicated in supporting the Army by helping our soldiers and their families who are experiencing emergency financial needs like myself at that time. Their sole goal is to alleviate financial distress so our soldiers can focus on the mission, which ultimately improves the individual, the unit and Army readiness.”
    Williams shared his story at the official 2019 AER Campaign Kickoff March 1 at the Frontier Conference Center. The campaign, which is in its 77th year, runs through May 15. Fort Leavenworth has a goal of $50,000 for the installation to contribute to overall AER funds.
    AER is a non-profit organization created to help soldiers, retirees and Army family members with emergency expenses such as rent, food assistance, medical expenses, emergency travel and vehicle repairs through interest-free loans and grants. It also provides scholarships for spouses and dependent children to continue their education. Since its establishment in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.8 billion in assistance.
    “Asking for help is strength,” said Brian Wheeler, Financial Readiness Program manager and AER officer. “Generations of soldiers have given to AER so that no soldier has to face financial hardship on their own.”
    In 2018, Fort Leavenworth provided nearly $360,000 in AER assistance, but only contributed $40,000 to the AER fund.
    “It is going to be your job to get it energized. Talk to your leadership, get in front of formations. It is going to be your job because we got to do better,” Williams said. “So, we’re asking for your help. If you are able, generously contribute or continue contributing to help AER meet its mission for 77 more years. AER continues to make a difference every day and takes pride in its mission of soldiers taking care of soldiers.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This is our opportunity to help soldiers and their families and retirees with immediate financial needs,” he said. “Not only are you meeting economic needs of soldiers, retirees and families, but also awarding children and spouses with scholarships, allocating grants to our wounded warriors and rendering support to our surviving family members.”
    Williams said it is important to get the Army community involved.
    “As the Army faces an uncertain environment, so does AER and its ability to continue to provide programs and assistance that I believe we take for granted,” he said. “Please help support this wonderful program and consider your donation as an investment in our soldiers.”
    To donate, soldiers can contact their unit key person and choose to donate via cash, check or monthly allotment. The public can donate by visiting www.aerhq.org or drop off a cash or check donation to the ACS office, 600 Thomas Ave.
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