Pentagon attack victims' families get financial assistance

Various groups have stepped in to provide millions of dollars in financial support for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

In one example, at a Dec. 27 Pentagon ceremony representatives of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sprinklerfitters donated a $250,000 check to the Pentagon Assistance Fund to help the families of victims.

Three organizations will disburse the money: Army Emergency Relief, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. These groups do not solicit money, but following the Sept. 11 attacks, they were inundated by queries asking how people could help. All three set up funds.

Most of the money will go toward post-secondary education expenses for the children and spouses of those killed in the attacks. In some cases, funds will also go to those severely wounded in the attack and their children or spouses.

Army Emergency Relief has also received about $3.5 million from the Pentagon Victims' Fund. This will guarantee the college expenses of 31 children of those killed in the attack. "Two more children will be born shortly," said retired Col. Greg Mason, AER treasurer. "We will cover their post-secondary expenses, too."

Spouses of those killed in the attack will also have their expenses covered, Mason said, but that money will come from a different pot.

Army Emergency Relief also operates a similar family assistance system for the survivors of Army personnel killed during Operation Desert Storm.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society also provides monetary help for Pentagon victims' families. The society has received more than $3.5 million. Most of this money will be used to fund education expenses.

"We've already paid the expenses for one widow's college expenses, and we are paying to put another widow through nursing school," said John Alexander, the society's communications director.

"This fall, one of the children will begin college and we will cover his expenses," he added.

There are 53 beneficiaries, Alexander said. This includes 21 widows and 32 soon-to-be-born children.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society also administers the USS Cole Memorial Fund. That $1.2 million fund is earmarked for college expenses of 11 children.

The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) administers donations for the spouses and children of civilian employees killed in the Pentagon attack. To date, the fund has received more than $3 million. Officials estimate that about 65 people will receive money from the fund.

FEEA Executive Director Steve Bauer said civilian families' monetary needs are somewhat different than those of the families of military victims of the Pentagon attack.

"The civilian employees are older than the military personnel," Bauer explained, adding that the civilian employees' children "are older and the post-secondary funds need is more immediate."

Additionally, some federal employees died in the World Trade Center attack. Consequently, their families may draw from the FEEA fund.

FEEA also administers the fund for the children of federal civilians killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

All three organizations helped the families of military and federal civilians killed at the Pentagon with immediate monies, such as family transportation and housing costs.

The Army and Navy groups also stand ready to help the families of sailors and Marines killed during Operation Enduring Freedom.

"If Navy and Marine personnel are killed in Afghanistan, for example, we will provide their survivors with the same benefits," Alexander said.

AER Treasurer Mason agreed with the idea. "We've been providing this service for 60 years," he said. "We are here to help any soldier in need."

If you wish to donate or just want more information, go to www.aerhq.org for Army Emergency Relief, www.nmcrs.org for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and www.feea.org for the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund.

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