Friday, October 12, 2012


It's only thirty some miles from where I live.  Hardly a long trek.  That's why it's hard to comprehend any  reasons its taken me so long to get there.  But last weekend I finally did.

It weighs some 56 tons and is roughly 12 feet tall.  It's about a mile and a half off of Interstate 80 at exit 86 (about 35 miles from Des Moines) among the cornfields of Iowa.  And it's one huge, huge focal point for what our troops preserve for us each and every day.  Freedom.  And appropriately it's called by that same name, Freedom Rock.

Notice the telephone pole over my left shoulder on the  "Huey" side

For years, the rock served as a graffiti piece.  Something vandals used to pen their mindless dribble and sayings.  That was until 1999 when a nineteen year-old from nearby Greenfield by the name of Ray "Bubba" Sorensen came to the rescue.

"It was around Memorial Day when I was driving past the rock when I wondered what it would be like if I actually took the time to go out there and paint it.  And so I painted it with the flag raising from Iwo Jima.  I got a huge response from it that I kept painting it. And I've been painting it with tributes to Veterans on Memorial Day".

Thirteen years later, Sorensen's still at it.  He usually begins his process each year by putting scenes on a blank canvas.  And then the process begins.  Each side of the rock save one has a coat of white paint and awaits a new theme.

The Huey helicopter is the only thing that stays the same.  "It always stays because it has the ashes of 30 different Vietnam Veterans mixed into the paint and I add more ashes every year", said Sorenson.  "People send their ashes and bone fragments so they can paint them into the rock.  Now that is something.  That is so sentimental", said Mike Smith of Mason City.

A tribute to brothers fighting for freedom

This year, Sorensen was finally able to place the faces of the Five Sullivan Brothers that gave their lives for our country.  All five were aboard the USS Juneau when their ship was sunk in November of 1942.  The Brothers,  George, 27; Frank, 26; Joe, 24; Matt, 23 and Al, 20 were natives of Waterloo, Iowa.

Throughout the years, Sorensen has featured such pieces as Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta,  George Washington crossing of the Deleware, America's response to the September 11 terrorist attack and on and on and on......  Each year, there is tremendous excitement to see the new unveiling and each year the crowds keep coming back.

Only once.  Just once, has the Rock been vandalized.  Sorensen's 60 year anniversary tribute to Veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack was defaced weeks after it was completed.  But the perpetrator got a punch in the mouth from a Vietnam War veteran for his trouble and his work has gone untouched ever since.  How appropriate.  

A must see?  No doubt.  And you couldn't  find a better buy.  It doesn't cost a cent, it's free.



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