LTC Amber Ryder, Fort Belvoir Headquarters Battalion Commander, left, presents MAJ Quinta Lum with a gift at the Fort Belvoir Army Emergency Relief 2024 Campaign kickoff at the USO Warrior and Family Center, March 1. Lum explained how AER helped her attend an unexpected family funeral in Cameroon with an interest-free loan.

Army Emergency Relief needs your assistance for ‘when life happens’

Personal tragedy – it’s never on your calendar, and seldom expected, which makes the cascading list of decisions even harder to deal with.

Maj. Quinta Lum, Deputy Surgeon and Chief of Medical Readiness for U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), was shaken to receive news of her grandmother’s death in Cameroon. Lum was a single mother and wasn’t prepared to make immediate plans to fly nearly 6,000 miles across the Atlantic for the family funeral.

“It was hard, dealing with the death of a family member as a single parent,” Lum said. “I didn’t know how to process it all, where to start, or how I could make it work. I was advised by my sergeant major to go to (Army Emergency Relief) for assistance. It was amazing how fast the emergency loan was granted. I was able to travel, come back safely and (had) enough time to pay back the loan.”

Fort Belvoir kicked off its Army Emergency Relief (AER) Annual Fund Drive March 1 at the USO Warrior and Family Center, where attendees were urged to support the U.S. Army’s official nonprofit organization which has been serving Soldiers and Families since 1942.

The 16th Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Tony Grinston, now AER’s chief executive, urged attendees in a video to donate, because it offers “an immediate and direct impact for Soldiers, including unmet medical needs and emergency situations.”

“In 2023, AER provided support to over 29,000 Soldiers and Families in need by helping to ease their financial burden through grants and zero-interest loans. Being the official Army's nonprofit, AER should be the go-to nonprofit for donations, both on and off installations,” said Grinston.

Lt. Col. Amber Ryder, Commander, Fort Belvoir Headquarters Battalion, said that this is emblematic of one of the Army’s core principals.

“We always talk about People First. I think AER is one of those things that shows what People First is all about,” Ryder said. “It's how we can directly support our brothers and sisters in uniform. Every dollar that you put in will be used for something that's helpful to them. just like Maj. Lum said, the problems that people have, can sometimes be fixed so easily with a little bit of money.”

If you are considering donating to AER, this year’s campaign has been extended until June 14 – the Army’s Birthday – and tax-deductible donations can be made online, at,  or by payroll allotment through Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Lum said she is still so relieved to have discovered what a valuable and immediate assist AER played in her life, when she didn’t know what she was going to do. She urged others to help lift up Soldiers and their Families in those unplanned moments when life happens.

“Because you're part of this Army Family, I hope you give to AER, because it really goes a long way to support family members and soldiers in need,” Lum said. “It's not just supporting them through a particular circumstance, it’s giving them the opportunity to be able to take care of themselves and then come back and do what they do best.”

Paul Lara, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Specialist