A near-packed crowd of service members filled Carey Theater March 2 for the kickoff to the Army Emergency Relief Program, which runs now through May 15.
The kickoff involved motivational speeches from Col. Nicole Lucas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud, I Corps command sergeant major, as well as inspirational testimonies of a handful of Soldiers who previously received aid through AER.
“Your support to our program is critical; it’s our way of being able to take care of our own with emergency financial assistance,” Lucas said. “As many of you may know, one of the biggest sources of stress for Soldiers and families here on JBLM is financial readiness. AER allows us to help Soldiers and families during emergencies with grants and interest free loans to help with critical needs, (car) repairs, emergency travel. We all agree these are critical. What we can offer in terms of assistance is a far better option than payday lenders outside our gates.”
Tagalicud continued Lucas’ support of the AER program and its impact on America’s Soldiers locally and around the world.
“Those AER funds are used every day,” Tagalicud said, talking of a tornado in Georgia when “the heroes of the AER Relief Fund came to the rescue” followed shortly thereafter by “one of the biggest hurricanes Georgia has ever seen.”
The storms raged all the way through Savannah and Fort Stewart and service members were displaced all the way to Fort Benning, Tagalicud said. That doesn’t just happen in other parts of the country, he said.
“What if there was an earthquake right here, right now?”
He also spoke of outside lenders charging exorbitant rates, which can lead to further financial crisis; whereas, “Ta-da! AER, if you are qualified, will help you out. ... you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Staff Sergeant Simon McTizic, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, was one of three service members to talk about how he was helped by AER.
At the time he needed assistance, McTizic was serving at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama when his wife called him from Oklahoma to let him know the family’s car broke down. She had no way to get the kids to school and other activities.
“I was living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, his superior steered him to AER.
“How much money do you need,” McTizic said the drill sergeant asked him. “I told him the high number knowing there was no way he could get me that.”
“We got you taken care of,” his drill sergeant said.
The financial assistance in his time of need inspired McTizic to do what he can now to help fellow Soldiers.
“Now, that’s something I donate to every year,” he said.
Since its inception, AER has distributed more than $1.7 billion to Soldiers, their families and veterans. In 2017, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s AER provided Soldiers and their families with more than $2.3 million.
The Armywide campaign has a goal of $12 million, established by AER in order to provide the same level of assistance realized in past years. AER is supported by voluntary contributions from Soldiers, retirees, veterans and civilians during the Army’s annual campaign.
Donations to AER are tax deductible and can be made with a personal check, allotment, cash, credit or debit card.
AER is a private nonprofit organization, incorporated in 1942 by the secretary of the war and the Army chief of staff, with the sole mission of helping Soldiers, survivors and family members. The funds are available in order to continue to Army tradition of “Soldiers helping Soldiers.”
The program also provides scholarships for military spouses and children.
For more information, visit jblmmwr.com/acs/acs_aer.html.