Memorial Day seemed like a good time for a drive to the approximately 12-foot-high, 60-ton Freedom Rock on Highway 25 just a few miles south of I-80 to see how artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II is honoring veterans.
It began in 1999 when Sorensen painted on the boulder a simple “Thank you” to Veterans. He’s now in his 17th year of annually honoring veterans each May with a new painting for Memorial Day.
The features on this year’s Freedom Rock included “The Four Chaplains” and the Marine Corps sniper Carlos “White Feather” Hathcock. The Four Chaplains were four U.S. Army Chaplains on the U.S.A. Dorchester when it was torpedoed on Feb. 3, 1943.
The four chaplains removed their own life jackets and selflessly gave them to others. These four men from different backgrounds and faiths–a Catholic priest, a rabbi, a minister in the Reformed Church in America and a Methodist minister–then prayed together as the ship sank.
Carlos Hathcock was the “American Sniper” of the Vietnam War. He was eventually credited with 93 enemy confirmed kills, including one at the unbelievable range of 2500 yards. He earned the nickname “White Feather” for wearing a white feather on his hat, daring the North Vietnamese to spot him.
Those familiar with Freedom Rock know that the Huey helicopter is an enduring constant in each year’s painting. The helicopter’s paint contains the ashes of nearly 80 fallen Vietnam veterans.
Sorensen’s work on the original Freedom Rock is his annual tribute to veterans. He is not commissioned for his work.
He is paid for his Freedom Rock Tour, and this summer marks his third year on the tour. He completes approximately ten Freedom Rocks each year, with the goal of having a Freedom Rock in every county of Iowa.
Sorensen’s goals with the Freedom Rock Tour are to honor America’s veterans, promote Iowa tourism and provide for his family. His next available booking is in 2020. He hopes to complete all 99 counties by 2023.
Refer to his The Freedom Rock website for for the locations of all his completed Freedom Rocks.
Only the Highway 25 Freedom Rock is re-painted annually. The county Freedom Rocks are painted to last for decades.
Thanks to Bubba Sorensen for placing his unique freedom reminders across the Iowa landscape. We remember our fallen heroes.