Army officials gathered last week to formally kick off the 2013 fundraising campaign for the Army Emergency Relief Fund.

The slogan for this year’s campaign is “Supporting soldiers and their families, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

A symbolic proclamation signing was March 5 at III Corps Headquarters to emphasize Fort Hood will support the campaign, increase awareness of the program and raise funds.

Brig. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, signed the proclamation and said he believes the local community can raise $500,000 this year — up $100,000 from last year’s goal.

Last year, 5,953 cases at Fort Hood received $7 million in funding, according to the program.

“This is a great organization here for our families, retirees and soldiers,” Richardson said. “Take the lead, get out front and give a little bit to help our soldiers.”

AER is a commander’s program that provides financial assistance to soldiers, retirees and their families. Support is offered in either grants or no-interest loans for a variety of needs, ranging from dependent dental care to basic furniture needs to establish a household to prescribed cranial helmets for children not covered by Tricare.

“It’s one more tool in your toolkit to help take care of soldiers and families,” said Guy Shields, chief of communications for AER Headquarters.

He said the visit to Fort Hood also allowed him to meet with leaders about the program.

“My main goal is to talk to you all and get your help in getting the word out,” Shields said. “I want to make sure every soldier and family member knows (AER) is there.”

The emergency financial support is there, he said, for those surprise situations that can happen to anyone, such as a car repair or that midnight phone call that a distant family member died and the entire family needs to fly cross-country for a funeral. “Most people don’t have $3,000 to $5,000 to do it,” Shields said.

Other times, AER can help when a soldier has made a financial mistake and needs help getting back on track.

“That’s the advantage of AER being embedded with (Army Community Service) counselors. They see soldiers with problems and can take a deeper look,” he said. “We provide emergency assistance to get over the hump and the counselors get them back on track.”

Armywide, AER provided $68 million to 55,342 cases, Shields said. For more information on the program or to donate, go to

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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