The electric bill Spc. Anesha Medley opened stated in German that she owed €1,600 — an unexpected expense she could not afford.
The 23-year-old Soldier was caring for a newborn daughter, plus her younger brother and sister. Her husband was in the states undergoing treatment for cancer. The electricity bill added another layer of stress to her growing list of worries.
She went to her computer and used an online translator to decipher the rest. Phrases jumped from her screen: “due by this date” and “going to shut off.”
“I can’t have my lights turned off with three kids in the house,” Specialist Medley said. “I went to my chain of command and said, ‘I need help.’”
At times of financial crisis, Soldiers can turn to Army Emergency Relief, a private nonprofit organization that has provided emergency financial assistance to Soldiers since 1942. Last year in Kaiserslautern, AER offered more than $24,700 in 51 grants to Soldiers. Also, they granted 206 loans, a total of $321,000.
Each spring, AER conducts its contribution campaign. Soldiers donate to AER through their unit representative. In the first six weeks of the 2011 campaign, Army units in the KMC collected nearly $35,000. But, local AER campaign organizers say that’s far from this year’s goal.
With just a month left in the campaign, events are planned to boost contributions. On Thursday, the Kaiserslautern Sergeants Major Association will hold a drawing for tickets to an upcoming Shakira concert in Mannheim and a golf tournament will be held in Ramstein. Proceeds from the events will go toward the AER campaign.
The funds collected during the campaign make the financial assistance possible, supporting Soldiers like Specialist Medley when they need it most.
“AER is a big help,” Specialist Medley said. “They’ll help you. You don’t have to feel like you’re stuck.”
As a teen, Specialist Medley promised to care for her younger brother and sister, who were without parents. In 2005, she joined the Army Reserve. In 2008, she married Spc. Kenneth Medley, went on active duty, and reported to the 5th Quartermaster Detachment at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, where she serves as a logistics specialist. A few days after her arrival, she found out she was pregnant.
She was determined to keep her promise, so she went to North Carolina, picked up her siblings and moved into a house in Landstuhl. That August, her daughter Serenity was born. Unfortunately, the joy of a newborn lasted only a short while.
By October, Kenneth was diagnosed with cancer and went stateside for treatment at Womack Army Medical Center. Alone in a foreign country, Specialist Medley faced mounting expenses. Her supervisors steered her toward AER.
At the AER office, Specialist Medley didn’t know what to expect. She received some money as a grant and some as a loan.
“I was so relieved,” she said. “I went straight to the bank to pay that electric bill.”
During a recent AER event at Landstuhl, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Jessup mentioned Specialist Medley’s story during his remarks.
“This was a Soldier who was in need,” Sergeant Major Jessup said. “AER was there to help.”
Specialist Medley has since taken steps away from further financial peril. The situation was a wakeup call, she said, on how much she spends and the importance of budgeting. Though money is still tight, she was able to move into housing on post, alleviating her from monthly housing and utilities costs.
Now, she stays busy with work, the kids and online college courses. But she hasn’t forgotten how AER helped her when life’s challenges nearly overwhelmed her and her family.
“Back then it was tears, stress and lonely nights with a baby,” Specialist Medley said. “Now, I’m fine and don’t worry about bills. Now, it’s a feeling of relief.”
For more information on the AER campaign, including Shakira tickets and the golf tournament, contact your unit AER representative or call 0631-3406 4262.