PROSPER — The armed forces give so much to our country — their time, service and in some cases, their lives. It is the duty of the soldier to ensure the citizens of the United States are always protected, no matter what the cost. While soldiers are off fighting for our freedom, local fire and police departments are hard at work ensuring the safety of our communities.


It’s a duty that the Town of Prosper does not take lightly.


That’s why Cotton Gin owner Mike Pettis tries to pay it forward every year. Started in 2014, Prosper holds the annual “Country 4 Country” event every year to support those who have served and have suffered burn wounds during their time of service.


“You’ve got all these other great charities, like Carry the Load and Wounded Warrior, but there’s nothing out there for burn victims, and usually if someone steps on an IUD or something gets blown up near them, they’re going to get burned, plus all the firemen that have to run into a burning house,” Pettis said.


Inspired by the charity called Sons of the Flag, which was founded by Navy Seal Veteran Ryan “Birdman” Parrott in 2012, Pettis and Parrott were able to connect and create Country 4 Country, which gives members of the Prosper community their own way to bring awareness to the issue.


According to their website, “Sons of the Flag is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting military, first responder and civilian burn survivors by providing funding for innovative research. We bring together passionate community leaders, pioneering physicians, experienced military service members, dedicated first responders and purposeful civilians to complete our mission.”


In a nutshell, it is an organization geared toward finding a way to support burn victims in their journey towards recovery.


The Prosper event, Country 4 Country, is a yearly event that features food, auctions and a special musical guest, different every year. Country 4 Country has hosted performers such as Randy Rogers, Kevin Fowler and Stoney Larue. This year’s feature took place on May 4.


All of the funds raised during the event go directly to Sons of the Flag.


Pettis said it’s just a small way to give back to those who give so much for the country.


“It’s an unbelievable event that we do to raise money to give back to these burn victim,” he said.


Perris said the event raised enough money to send 20 victims to a healthcare facility in Florida that specializes in burn surgery and recovery.


“Every kind of doctor they need — plastic surgeon, amputee, skin graft — everything is right there so hopefully it’s a one-stop-shop, which is important because right now, we’ve got people who have had over 100 surgeries, and could use 100 more.”


In the four years that the event has been in Prosper, they have raised over $500,000 in donations, in which some of that money is generated through unique auction items.


“We netted over $130K from our Country for Country event on May 4th in Prosper,” Pettis said. “It’s our biggest success to date for this event.”


Some of the items on the auction list included a American flag signed by Navy Seal Robert O’Neil, who is best known for shooting and killing Osama Bin Laden. They also had a helmet signed by the New York Fire Department Rescue 2 — the busiest fire department in the country.


“This is more about the military personnel than it is about the celebrity stuff,” Pettis said. “All these items are things that I want here in the community.”


Next year’s event will take place during the fall season, so be on the lookout for more information if interested. If you want to become more involved in the Sons of the Flag charity, you can visit their website at https://sonsoftheflag.org/.


Sherry Atkins, who is the Director of Development for Sons of the Flag, said that none of this would be possible without the support of the Pettis family.


“I would like to add that this money is infused directly into our programs that support military, veteran and first responded burn survivors,” Atkins said. “We truly and humbly thank the Pettis family and all the kind sponsors in Prosper and surrounding areas for making the event possible.”