While former Spc. Shawn Turner was at Fort Campbell, he decided he needed to get his finances in order before transitioning out the Army.
He and his wife, Unssa, wanted to buy a home but they knew the amount of debt they were in would make that next to impossible. They decided to visit Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program for help.
“I wanted to use all the resources that the Army provided for us,” Turner said.
The Turners only have a single income because Unssa is a stay-at-home mom to their 2-year-old daughter, Skylar, who suffers from spina bifida. Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord do not form properly.
“We had to find a way to reel in our finances and prepare ourselves for home ownership, so we met with Mr. [Terrence] Jones at ACS to talk about our finances and do some budgeting and what not,” Turner said.
Jones, Financial Readiness Program manager, told Turner his Family might be eligible for a financial fitness loan through Army Emergency Relief. Turner did not know much about AER because it is not something that is widely discussed until a Soldier has a need, he said.
“It’s that stigma generally about finances,” Turner said. “No one really wants to talk about those stories. So it’s kind of hard to get that information if you’re in that situation.”
The Turners were introduced to Steven Stone, a financial readiness counselor, who helped them make a budget to pay down their debt and save for the future.
“It was rough,” Turner said. “We had a year where we were like $600 short a month. So it was really tough and that just made it substantially harder to go through everyday life because everything was on a budget.”
The experience taught Turner and his wife financial discipline thanks to AER. “Knowing that we had goals, knowing what we wanted, kept us in line,” Turner said
A year later, the Turner Family is in the process of having a home built in Michigan, where they settled after Turner left the Army.
Despite transitioning to civilian life, Turner makes it a point to donate to AER every year.
“It’s important to donate to a cause I believe in and then it helped me in a time of need,” he said. “AER is definitely a worthy cause because Soldiers have emergencies as well and things come up. Just knowing that you have somewhere you can actually go to in a time of need just makes you feel like you’re not by yourself.”
Turner said Soldiers who think they need help should “just do it” and visit ACS and AER because there are so many different resources available to Soldiers and their Families.
“You never know how you can be helped,” Turner said. “You never know what you may need but you can get help. They may have the resources and tools to help you another way.”
Anything is better than waiting for a situation to deteriorate to the point of command intervention, he said.
“I came from a situation where I wasn’t taught those financial tools growing up and becoming an adult,” Turner said. “It’s only as hard as you make it. If you don’t keep your goals in mind that makes it harder, but when you have goals in mind it sucks, but it’s not as hard.”
Army Emergency Relief is in the final days of its annual fundraising campaign.
Sergeant First Class Matthew Antonelli, AER campaign coordinator, said the campaign has currently raised approximately 75 percent of its goal, or about $150,000.
“Fort Campbell should meet its goal as long as every unit participates,” Antonelli said. “Fort Campbell could easily surpass its goal.”
AER assists Soldiers and their Families, as well as Reserve and National Guard Soldiers on continuous active duty for more than 30 days, retirees and Gold Star spouses through loans and grants to help with emergency expenses. Clients are often set up with a financial counselor to address longer term financial issues.
“The majority [of donations] come from units, however retirees and civilians contribute a significant amount that helps out immensely,” Antonelli said.
He said donating is important because it allows Soldiers to continue to help Soldiers,
Families and retirees in emergency situations rather than leaving others to rely on the alternative of an off-post high-interest loan.
Antonelli said even though the campaign ends May 15, collections are welcome throughout the year.
Anyone wishing to donate can visit the AER office at ACS, 2602 Indiana Ave., or they can donate through the unit AER representative.
Donations can also be made online at www.aerhq.org. Online donations must be marked for Fort Campbell to count toward the total collected for the post.
For more information on how to donate, call Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Antonelli at 270-798-5529.