Annual AER campaign kicks off at March 2 Fort Knox event

A U.S. Soldier in uniform stands in front of a group of people, some of them in similar uniforms, sitting at tables.

Photo and story by Jenn DeHaan | Fort Knox News | March 3, 2023

FORT KNOX, Kentucky – The 2023 Army Emergency Relief campaign to help Soldiers and Families with financial assistance is officially underway.

Often referred to AER, the campaign has supported four million active duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers and Family members with almost $2 billion in funds since it was first established in 1942. During a kickoff event March 2 at the Houston Bowling Center, Fort Knox Garrison’s Command Sgt. Maj. Sherman Waters Jr. spoke about how he has witnessed AER help those in need.

“I’ve been in the military for 27 years, and through every part of my career I have seen AER help Soldiers,” said Waters. “I’ve seen those who need help with their mortgage, their car payment, things for their children – AER has been there for them every step of the way.”

Each year, AER donations provide grants, interest-free loans and scholarships in an effort to promote readiness and help relieve the financial distress of Soldiers and Families. Waters addressed Soldiers from the numerous units across Fort Knox at the event, urging them to embrace their role in AER’s success.

“You are the link to the Soldiers on the installation,” said Waters. “Last year alone AER helped 273 Soldiers at Fort Knox, which totaled about $450,000 in funds.”

During the AER campaign, Soldiers can donate directly within their organizations by filling out contribution slips or by visiting the AER website. Waters informed unit representatives how they can ensure word gets out before the campaign closes May 15.

“I want you all to understand the importance of notifying the Soldiers of what AER is,” said Waters. “There are a lot of myths about AER, so make sure you explain what it really does.”

Although sharing campaign information with fellow Soldiers is key, Waters also questioned the representatives about who else they should reach out to and discuss donating.

“We talk about the Soldiers, but do you know who the biggest donators to AER are,” Waters asked the room.

Several voices chimed in: “Retirees.”

“There are about 40,000 retirees in our community,” said Waters. “If you get the opportunity, talk to them as well. This is all about one team, one fight when we talk about AER.”

The AER opening event was one of the first opportunities for Waters to address Soldiers of Fort Knox in his new role at the Garrison since taking over last month. He said he has already seen the need for fund-raising in his short time in that new role.

“I’ve been the Garrison sergeant major for only about 30 days,” said Waters. “At least two or three times a week already I’ve had AER requests come through.”

With a clear need directly within the Fort Knox community, Waters said it’s imperative to reach and hopefully surpass this year’s target amount.

“Soldiers, Family members and retirees need our help,” said Waters. “The goal this year is $130,000. I think that’s doable with everybody’s effort and energy.”

All AER donations are tax deductible, with 91 cents of every dollar donated going directly to Soldiers and Families in need. Waters encouraged as many people as possible to give whatever they can.

“We’re able to support the Fort Knox community with AER,” said Waters. “We can’t reach our goal without everyone’s help.”

For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to