Muscatine County Freedom Rock dedicated in Wilton

The Muscatine County community celebrated the unveiling of their Freedom Rock, a mural honoring veterans, on Sunday afternoon.
Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 11:43 PM CDT
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WILTON, Iowa (KWQC) - The Muscatine County community celebrated the unveiling of their Freedom Rock, a mural honoring veterans, on Sunday afternoon. The memorial sits in front of the former Rock Island Line Depot in downtown Wilton.

“It’s amazing to see how communities kind of rally around each rock and make it their own,” said Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, the artist.

When Sorensen first started the Freedom Rock Project, he said he had three goals in mind, which was to thank veterans, promote Iowa tourism, and feed his family.

“Hopefully my thanking veterans is getting across. People are taking the tour so I think promoting Iowa tourism is getting out,” he said, “it’s already been a success.”

Rear Admiral Will Pennington was also in attendance. The Wilton native has served more than 30 years and counting in the Navy. He said memorials like the Freedom Rock bring people together.

“Those who served in Vietnam had a different time and our country has learned the importance of honoring those who have taken the time to serve our country and so that’s always uplifting to see folks come together at a time where sometimes we focus on what is different so it’s really uplifting to see folks celebrating what we share in common,” he said.

People can also take their own Freedom Rock Tour to see the 92 Freedom Rocks in Iowa.

“It’s been kind of a great COVID thing to do, you know because you can really social distance and go out and see each of these. Not just the Freedom Rock memorials but all the memorials and everything out there so it’s a great activity,” Sorensen said.

“It’s a neat opportunity, I think, to bring people around to learn a little bit about the history of Muscatine County. To learn about the folks that have served their country,” Pennington said. “I really appreciate Bubba Sorensen [for] taking the time to do this. To honor our veterans in such a creative way and I appreciate very much the time and effort of the committee from all over Muscatine County to put this together and the great turnout,” he said.

The start of the project was inspired by stories Sorensen was told about his relatives who had served. One, in particular, stood out.

“My uncle Ted was a Seabee in Vietnam and coming back from service, he wasn’t treated very well like a lot of our Vietnam vets weren’t. That just always kind of sat with me and kind of festered,” he said, “and then I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan and the men storming the beaches of Normandy, you know, literally spilling their guts for our country, I thought I’m very lucky that I’m just sitting in a theater and that’s all the closer I’ve been to war and I want to say thank you to the men and women who serve our country.”

Sorensen painted the original Freedom Rock in Adair County and has repainted it each Memorial Day for the past 22 years. Sorensen is currently working on the 93rd Freedom Rock in Fayette County. The remaining 6 have booked a Freedom Rock.

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