Legion’s Freedom Rock is source of pride

Posted July 18, 2013 at 5:00 am


By Steve Peterson

Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II was thankful to have a tent to work under in the heat of a summer’s afternoon as he painted his newest Freedom Rock in Hawarden.

“This is my eighth county on the tour,” said Sorensen on July 9, his second day at Veterans Memorial Park in Hawarden. “I ask for a rock 5 foot by 5 foot or around that size and the counties generally provide that size.”

Hawarden’s 10-ton rock was donated by LG Everist and came from Jasper, Minn.

Sorensen expected to be done ahead of the July 18 American Legion Post No. 2556 Sweet Corn Feed at the park from 5 to 7 p.m.

For the Hawarden piece, Sorensen started with an American flag on the top of the rock and worked his way around it. The work will show all branches of military service and faces of soldiers.

“There is a little indentation here and I may put the American Legion symbol here. I may also show the POW or MIA,” he said as he painted on Tuesday. “I’ve been getting positive responses.”

Hawarden Mayor Ric Porter said the Freedom Rock will be a good attraction for the town.

Visitors stopped throughout the week to check on Hawarden’s newest landmark. One noticed that a soldier had a pack of “smokes.”

“Cigarettes were such a big part of the military,” said Sorensen, who painted a World War II soldier and a Korean War soldier on the same section.

“They were so close together in time and uniform. People recognize the poncho as part of the Korean War era,” added Sorensen.

Sorensen credits his art teachers in elementary and high school for his interest in art.

“I was an art design major at Iowa State University,” said Sorensen, age 33 of Greenfield. He and his wife, Maria, have a daughter, Independence.

He is sponsored by Valspar Paints but is using a mineral based paint shipped from North Carolina.

His work in Hawarden began on July 8 on the Sioux County Freedom Rock, just the eighth in the State of Iowa in his bid to have all 99 counties to have a Freedom Rock. He estimates about three or four rocks will be done each year.

The Hawarden American Legion has committed $5,000 to the cost of The Freedom Rock project and will have fundraisers starting with the Corn Feed.

For one Hawarden family the rock will have special meaning.

“The eldest Aldrich, Eugene, passed away in California. We asked the family if they would not mind if we could have some of the ashes placed at the stone. The family said ‘it was an honor,’” said Hawarden Post Commander Harlan VanEgdom.

Some of Eugene’s ashes were placed at the rock site on July 6. Eugene was the oldest of the brothers who served.

A formal dedication of the Sioux County Freedom Rock is expected to take place during the Big Sioux River Days celebration over Labor Day weekend.

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