Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on our lives and the many blessings we all receive.
I am most thankful for my wife, my family and for the many opportunities that have found their way to my door.
I am also thankful for the people who have crossed my path and who I have made a positive impact on in some way with the talents God has bestowed upon me.
My life has been rich because of it. Thank you for reading my stories and columns and looking at my photographs. Thank you for supporting this paper and sporting my work. It is much appreciated!
I attended a Veteran’s Day program in Brooklyn last week. It’s a wonderful event hosted by the Brooklyn Ruritan Club. The guest speaker was Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II, the founder and creator of the original Freedom Rock, a 12-foot, 60 plus ton boulder on Highway 25 in rural Adair County and of the 99-county Freedom Rock Tour, which just wrapped up in September.
Poweshiek County’s Freedom Rock, which is on the southeast corner of the courthouse square, was painted in August 2016.
Sorenson shared the story of how it all started in 1999.
The original boulder, which is located by a quarry on private property, was discovered in the 1960s. The quarry tried to lift it out, but broke the crane, Sorenson said. They finally were able to push it using several pieces of heavy equipment to near the highway, cutting a four-foot deep swath in the road as they moved it.
In the years following, the rock became a place to paint graffiti by folks passing by. He said the rock featured Santa Claus mooning the world.
Inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, Sorenson asked his mom for $50 to purchase paint and supplies to paint one side of the rock in honor of the military. It grew from there and now is painted free of charge every Memorial Day holiday.
Sorenson shared that while painting the rock some years back, a cavalcade of Viet Nan Veterans pulled up on their motorcycles.
One of the Veterans approached Sorenson, asking if the group could spread ashes of their fallen comrades at the rock.
Sorenson encouraged them not to do that, saying that it was quite windy and that people walked all around the rock. Instead, he suggested the bikers and veterans pour the remains into his green paint, which he applied to a helicopter on the rock.
In the years since, Sorenson has added the ashes of many fallen veterans in his green paint.
“I have some ashes in my truck right now,” he told the gathering in Brooklyn.
He then shared a story of a father and son who showed up at the Freedom Rock. As the father videotaped the rock, the son, who he said was about age 3, walked up to the helicopter and put his ear to the rock.
“Dad,” the boy said. “There’s people in that helicopter.”
What’s amazing is that neither the boy or his father knew anything about the ashes that were added to the paint each year.
Freedom Rock Tour
Based on Sen. Charles Grassley 99-county tour, Sorenson and his wife, Maria, came up with the idea to paint a Freedom Rock in every county in Iowa. At first, Sorenson said he thought the tour would get off to a slow start. In his first year, he had 16 communities across the state sign up. His first Freedom Rock was painted in 2013 in Pocahontas County. His last Freedom Rock was painted in Linn County in September 2021, an eight-year span.
On Thursday, the day following the Brooklyn Veterans event, Sorenson announced that he would paint a 100th Freedom Rock at Adventureland Park. He told the gathering in Brooklyn that he wanted to end the tour with 100 rocks. Adventureland won the opportunity by bid with the proceeds to benefit two Veteran’s organizations. Sorenson said he plans to finish that rock on July 4, 2022.
Sorenson has also painted rocks in other states including South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri. He plans to paint rocks in Ohio, Illinois and Oklahoma. He also paints indoor murals and what he calls Liberty Rocks. And when not painting, Sorensen is an elected Iowa Legislator in House District 20 during the legislative session. Sorenson and Maria have three children.
For more information on Sorenson and the Freedom Rock, visit the: thefreedomrock.com or check out the Freedom Rock on Facebook.
I leave you with this, an old friend of mine once told me that, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
It's words of wisdom to keep in mind in the crazy days ahead in this world.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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