AER kickoff campaign offers firsthand testimonial

| March 3, 2017 | 0 Comments
Sgt. Derek S. Lastovich, a Soldier with the 311th Signal Command, gives a testimonial about Army Emergency Relief during the 2017 AER Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Sgt. Derek S. Lastovich, a Soldier with the 311th Signal Command, gives a testimonial about Army Emergency Relief during the 2017 AER Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

By Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — The 2017 Army Emergency Relief campaign kicked off here, Feb. 24, with a visit from retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, director of AER and former commanding general of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command and former senior mission commander for Army Hawaii.

“Nothing is more important than taking care of Soldiers and their families,” Mason told the crowd of Army leaders who had gathered at the kickoff event to hear him speak.

Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, the director of Army Emergency Relief Headquarters offers remarks during the 2017 AER Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, the director of Army Emergency Relief Headquarters offers remarks during the 2017 AER Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

AER was incorporated into the Army by the Secretary of the War and the Chief of Staff of the Army in 1942. It is a nonprofit organization that supports Soldiers facing financial hardships and relies on donations from Soldiers and their families to provide grants, no-interest loans and a combination of grants and loans to those in the force who need it the most.

Mason emphasized this point. “This is the Army’s campaign, not just AER’s campaign. It’s Army leadership that directs our movement,” he said, adding that because of this leaders can stand before their Soldiers and talk about AER, the support it provides and the fact that this support is made possible by donations from other Soldiers.

“This is truly Soldiers helping Soldiers,” he added.

He urged unit leaders to foster an AER-friendly environment, saying that the success of AER lies with unit leaders who encourage Soldiers to both donate and take advantage of the program.

“Coming for help is not a sign of weakness,” he said. “It’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign of trust between leaders and the led.”

Guests and keynote speakers stand as the 25th Infantry Division Brass Quintet performs during the 2017 Army Emergency Relief Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Guests and keynote speakers stand as the 25th Infantry Division Brass Quintet performs during the 2017 Army Emergency Relief Campaign Kickoff at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center, Feb. 24, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Sgt. Derek S. Lastovich, of the 311th Signal Command, a cancer survivor who credited AER with helping him when he received a no-pay due after a surgery related to his illness.

“This is not a sad story, but a true story,” he said. “In 2016, I re-enlisted to demonstrate that a Soldier, even one with a disease, can contribute from any position and that I will continue to train and to lead. After my last surgery I received a no-pay due for paperwork not getting to its proper destination. I came in to AER…and (they) helped me assess the situation.”

He appealed to Army leaders to support AER and keep their promise to be there for their Soldiers.

Although donations to AER from Hawaii increased in 2016, Mason said that donations overall have been on the decline. He attributed this to a shrinking force and fewer resources, but encouraged leaders to increase their efforts for the sake of their Soldiers.

Army Hawaii leaders in attendance said after the kickoff that they were moved to take the message to their Soldiers.

“It’s always inspiring to hear about AER and let Soldiers know about it,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Garo of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “It’s about Soldiers helping Soldiers and it should be the first place they go if they need financial help. If they go to outside sources (like pay day lenders) they’ll be charged high interest rates.”

Maj. Gen. Susan Davidson, commanding general of the 8th TSC, said it was important for leaders to embrace the program. “As leaders we really have to not only understand it, but buy into it. It isn’t just giving people free money. It will keep Soldiers in the force. It will give Soldiers the ability to remove that financial stressor and contribute to the readiness of the force.”

By the numbers

  • In 2016 AER worldwide assisted 36,000 Soldiers and their Families with more
    than $54 million in loans and grants.
  • In 2016 Schofield Barracks assisted 1,419 Soldiers and their families with
    more than $2.4 million in loans and grants.
  • In 2016 Schofield Barracks collected e for a total of $355,000. Of that amount, $316,000 came from active-duty Soldiers—the highest amount active-duty Soldiers Armywide.
  • In 2017, Schofield Barracks aims to raise $360,000 for AER

AER Assistance

AER provides financial assistance for the following:

•Car seats
•Cranial helmets
•Dependent dental care
•Emergency travel
•Essential furniture
•Food
•Funeral expenses
•Loss of funds
•Medical expenses
•Non­receipt of pay
•Rental vehicle
•Rent/Mortgage
•Repair/replacement of HVAC
•Repair/replacement of major appliances
•Replacement vehicle
•Travel fund for relocation (PCS)
•Utilities/deposits
•Vehicle repairs

Contact
To make a donation call the Schofield Barracks Army Community Services office at 655-4227 and ask to speak to an AER representative. Active-duty Soldiers can make a donation through their units’ AER representative. To make an online donation visit www.aerhq.org

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