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uac072413001.gif Somewhere in Afghanistan, two soldiers are on patrol. The first is an elite warrior, he uses state-of-the-art weaponry and technology as he moves throughout the remote countryside. His partner, while no less elite, uses his basic senses to seek out the enemy or to find bombs before they can harm his team. He is a military working dog.

On Saturday, June 27, Cumberland County residents will come together to memorialize 56 of these unsung heroes at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. At 10 a.m., the museum will unveil it’s latest memorial to pay homage to the military working dogs that have given their lives in support of this great nation.

The SOF K9 Memorial Foundation is comprised of a small group of military and civilian K9 professionals who would like to create a lasting memorial dedicated to special-operations forces K9s killed in action. There is a unique bond between a military working dog and its handler. According to the SOF K9 memorial website, that relationship can best be seen through the bond between the two. “The bond between a SOF handler and his K9 can be seen in every aspect of their relationship, from the FOB to engaging the enemy. Countless hours of training go into each of our elite K9s to give them the tools they need to survive on the battlefields.

“Their actions in combat are simply heroic, facing eminent danger with courage that sets the standard for all others. They give selflessly so others may live, for many we owe them our lives. Many SOF K9s have paid the ultimate price in support of this great nation.”

Josh Collins, the owner of Huske Hardware House and the newly opened Tap House, has seen this relationship in action and has thrown his support behind the organization. Collins will not only host a reception following the dedication of the memorial for foundation members, he will also host Fayetteville’s largest Parking Lot Party later that afternoon to raise funds to continue the work of the foundation in providing pavers for fallen dogs and care for dogs who have been wounded or who have retired. 07-24-13-cover-story-2.gif

Having been a member of the special-operations community while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army, Collins sees the work of the foundation as important.

“These are my band of brothers. The soldiers who work with these dogs are the men I served with while I was in the Army,” he explained. “Each of these dogs has saved hundreds of lives. If they were human, they would probably have been awarded a Medal of Honor. They have given their lives for their brothers.”

Collins put feet to his beliefs when he organized the Parking Lot Party, which will be held in the parking lot behind Huske Hardware House and the TapHouse at Huske. The concert, which will feature four performers from the Huske Singer/Songwriter Competition, as well as headliners Madison Rising, will begin at 5 p.m.

“This is going to be the Parking Lot Party of the decade,” said Collins. “We are going to have music in all genres from rock to pop to Americana. This is going to be the event of the summer.”

Opening the show will be the performers from the Huske Singer Songwriter competition: Nathan Fair, whose hit song “Fallen Soldier” is raising funds for the wounded warrior foundation, will be on hand. The following week, Fair will be in South Dakota, opening a show for Lynnyrd Skynnyrd at the annual Sturgis Bike Rally.

Fair will be joined by Autumn Nichols, the winner of the last Huske Unplugged competition, who recently performed at the Country Music Association Festival in Nashville, Tenn. Also slated to perform is Mitch Clark, a singer/songwriter and Summer Collins, who will be featured in X-Factor 3 this fall.

Madison Rising is a rock band with a conscience. The band’s music ranges from the guitar-heavy opening track of “Right To Bear,” to the hauntingly epic sounds of “Honk If You Want Peace,” to the beautiful violins of “Hallowed Ground.”

07-24-13-cover-story-3.gifCollins said choosing the band was easy because of its commitment to promoting the principles of liberty, independence, smaller government and personal responsibility.

Collins added that food and libations will be sold throughout the concert; however, no outside coolers or food will be allowed on the grounds. Tickets for the event are just $10 and can be purchased at www.huskehardware.com or on the Huske Hardware Facebook page. Tickets can also be purchased at Huske or at the newly opened TapHouse at Huske, which features more than 80 beers on tap.

Collins strongly urges patrons to purchase their tickets early to avoid standing in line the day of the concert. If you have not purchased your ticket before Saturday, he suggests you arrive around 3 p.m.

“Fayetteville is a very last minute town, and I would like nothing better than to see lines wrapped all the way around the block,” said Collins.

For more information about the SOF K9 Memorial Foundation, visit http://sofk9memorial.com. For more information about the concert visit www.huskehardwarehouse.com.

Photo: (Bottom left) An example of the statue that will be placed at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum on July 27.

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