Honoring our freedom

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II works on the nine-ton Plymouth County Freedom Rock®. Sorensen estimates he spends about a week crafting each rock, and he brings his own ideas as well as accepting ideas from community members. Plymouth County’s rock represents the 60th rock to be completed in Iowa, and it will be officially dedicated at a 5 p.m. ceremony on June 24. Included in the rock is a salute to Plymouth County veterans and two of its fallen service members, as well as patches representing wars from the Civil War to the War on Terror. One thing that Sorensen makes sure to include on all of the rocks — The American Flag.

KINGSLEY — What started as a way for Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II to appreciate veterans has grown into a state, and even nationwide tour to honor the men and women who have served our country.

Sorensen, who has been memorializing veterans for 19 years, started The Freedom Rock® Tour across Iowa five years ago.

“I went to see the movie Saving Private Ryan and I was inspired. That’s the closest I’ve been to war, and I wanted to say, ‘thank you’ to those that had been to war,” Sorensen said.

Thanks to a concerted effort from the City of Kingsley and American Legion Posts across Plymouth County, the Plymouth County Freedom Rock® will soon join the 59 other rocks painted in counties across Iowa.

Plymouth County’s nine-ton rock will sit at the Kingsley Community Center, 207 East First St.

The drive for Plymouth County to get its own rock was started by Kingsley City Councilman Keith Bohle, who filled out the application in 2015, and final preparations were made with the pouring of new cement in May.

Sorensen, who began work in Plymouth County June 6, stressed each rock is unique.

“I decided I was going to tell veterans’ stories, specific to each county,” Sorensen said. “I paint the American Flag on every one but they’re all different.”

Much of the research and the history Sorensen is using for Plymouth County’s rock came from Jim Rolfes, a member of Le Mars American Legion Wasmer Post #241 and author of the poem ‘Come Visit My Grave.’

The rock’s south face has the American flag, a bald eagle and the words “Plymouth County” inscribed on it.

“My favorite thing to paint on every one of them are flags. I love painting the American flag and I love painting eagles,” Sorensen said. “You can paint a flag a million different ways. Every time it bends in the wind or bends around the shape of the rock it’s a different painting.”

The east face honors two Plymouth County patriots, Pvt. Issac Gripp and Specialist Chad Groepper. Gripp and Groepper were the first and the last service members from Plymouth County to give their lives in the line of duty.

On the west side of the rock are patches from the National Guard in Le Mars, with each patch representing wars, from the Civil War to the War on Terror.

The north face pays tribute to Struble brothers, Jim and John Nicholson, both highly decorated Plymouth County veterans.

Sorensen added when he begins work on a rock, he doesn’t leave until he finishes.

“I go ‘all in’ on each rock, so when it’s a county’s turn about a week ahead of time I’m focused on sketching it, conceptualizing it, and trying to understand and research the history of the county,” Sorensen said. “I do one job at a time, and everybody that books understands that.”

Sorensen is booked through 2021, and he plans to keep on chugging until every Iowa county has its own Freedom Rock®.

The Plymouth County Freedom Rock® will be dedicated at a 5 p.m., June 24 ceremony at the Kingsley Community Center, followed by a street dance on Main Street at 7 p.m.

Donations made to the Plymouth County Freedom Rock® can be dropped off or sent to Kingsley State Bank, United Bank of Iowa, Kingsley City Hall, or Keith Bohle Financial. The mailing address is Kingsley City Hall PO Box 309, Kingsley, Iowa, 51028, with checks payable to “City of Kingsley - Freedom Rock® Project Expense.”

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