Payday loans. Securities lending. Interest rates galore. These are just a few of the many financial pitfalls that plague military personnel and their families at many military installations.
Army Emergency Relief (AER), on the other hand, is dedicated to helping Soldiers avoid unnecessary, high-interest financial inconvenience by providing zero-interest loans, grants, and scholarships, to also include members of their family.
Lt. Gen. (retired) Raymond Mason, who is the director of the AER, is on a mission to educate soldiers on the benefits of nonprofit organization and to change the shame of asking for aid. He recently met with AER representatives, financial advisers, senior leaders, soldiers and family members, in several sessions during a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
âAsking for help is a sign of strength,â Mason said. âThere is unfortunately a stigma attached to asking for financial assistance, but life happens naturally. We encourage soldiers to donate who are able to, in order to maintain that special bond of never leaving a comrade behind. “
Mason has led revealing AER forums with the JBLM Army community, facilitating engaging discussions with junior service members, down to commanders and their family members.
âPredatory lenders love to be right outside the doors of military installations,â Mason said. âTake car title loans, for example. The annual percentage rate on a car title loan can go well over 300%. If a soldier ignores the fine print and defaults on that loan, and you factor in late fees, the amount will just get out of hand.
Family emergencies, car repairs, and child safety seats are just a few of the many reasons soldiers use AER, according to Mason. His conversations deepened the reasons why soldiers are reluctant to ask for help, leading participants to openly share their opinions with Mason’s contribution.
âAER never charges an interest rate,â Mason said. âWe offer loans, grants and a combination of the two. Sometimes soldiers make bad decisions, while other times life can bring unexpected obstacles. “
When asked what makes a strong ARE campaign, Mason clarified.
âI think a strong AER campaign revolves around information dissemination, which is why I spend time touring military facilities,â Mason said. âWe want soldiers to know who we are, while encouraging them to donate. The amount does not matter. All we want is for soldiers to never lose that special bond that comes with serving alongside their comrades. “
Mason ended his sessions by recounting his own military career, explaining why he continues to serve soldiers after his retirement.
âI love the military,â Mason said. âI have been in the military my whole life. It’s just my way of giving back for everything the military has given me and my family. “
For more information on AER or to donate, please visit www.ArmyEmergencyRelief.org